Exposé Online banner

Forrest Fang — Letters to the Farthest Star
(Projekt 312, 2015, CD)

by Paul Hightower, 2019-01-04:

Letters to the Farthest Star Cover art

Despite the title, this is a very earthbound collection. Hearts of Space devotees may already be acquainted with Berkeley-based musician Forrest Fang’s East-meets-West instrumental soundscapes, but many of these tracks are accessible enough to pull in all kinds of listeners. Letters to the Farthest Star is a hefty offering pushing 70 minutes (or more if you include the bonus tracks) that does way more than merely provide a backdrop to meditation. The opening four-part suite, “The Unreachable Lands,” delivers hummable melodies, bubbly rhythms, and rich textures that recall mainstream artists like Peter Gabriel. Like all electro-ambient artists, Fang employs an impressive arsenal of keyboards to create the lush settings that inhabit his music, although it’s the other instruments in his studio — including Japanese harp, gamelan, and Turkish lutes — that characterize his unique sound. Pieces like “Veldt Hypnosis” become pagoda-like edifices of noisy percussion built upon dense atmospheric foundations. It can all get a bit suffocating, but that’s also part of what sets Fang apart from more his more minimalist peers. His background as a violin player serves him well on the elegant “Seven Coronas,” and while he’s probably not a master, he’s more than capable on the Chinese zithers, hand drums, and myriad other instruments heard on these 13 tracks. Through it all there’s a sense of something ancient and mysterious, yet elegant and beautiful at the same time. As the last notes wafted into the ether I found myself reaching for the replay button more than once.


by Peter Thelen, 2015-03-16:

Since the early 80s, Forrest Fang has been creating his own special brand of music that draws instrumentation from around the world to create something unique, different, and pan-cultural – a sound that doesn’t necessarily owe anything to the cultures from which the instruments are drawn, but is reminiscent of them nonetheless. How can that not happen? One hears a guzheng (Chinese zither), for example, and the listener will immediately recall soundtracks from television and films where similar instruments were used, and thus the images form. This is the magical soundworld that Forrest Fang calls home, a place where moods and expression seize fragments of shadow and light, mixing these together with a veritable smorgasbord of world instrumentation which includes synthesizers, electronics, bandurria, mandolin, violin, lauta, hichiriki, cumbus, baglama, Indonesian kendang and saron, Japanese palm harp, and much more, mostly drawn from eastern and western Asian cultures. Mixed in with these are the ambient sounds created using electronics and studio processing; the result is a powerful and potent cinematic mix of sounds that draws the mind from place to place, outward and inward as well. Fang plays all these instruments himself, with a little help from Jeff Pearce on electric guitar. Counting his Invisibility collaboration with Carl Weingarten, this is Fang’s twelfth album, and in fact reflections of all those albums can be heard in this latest work, which starts with the side-long suite “The Unreachable Lands,” followed by six more pieces of varying lengths, each conveying a different feeling, capping off with the ten-minute “Lines to Infinity,” a potent mix of processed electric mandolin integrated with studio delay effects. Intense, spirited, and expansive, this is music like nobody else can make.

Filed under: New releases , 2015 releases

Related artist(s): Forrest Fang

More info

Latest news

2020-09-09
Simeon Coxe RIP – Simeon Coxe, best known for his experimental electronics in the band Silver Apples, has died at the age of 82. The band's 1968 debut album set the stage for both German electronic music and experimental punk music a decade later. Coxe died on September 8 from pulmonary fibrosis. » Read more

2020-09-05
Gary Peacock RIP – Legendary bassist Gary Peacock, veteran of many recordings and performances with Paul Bley, George Russell, Roland Kirk, Bill Evans, Tony Williams, and many more. » Read more

2020-07-22
Tim Smith RIP – Tim Smith, leader of the eccentric band Cardiacs, has died at the age of 59 after many years of health problems. Cardiacs was known for intense and complicated music that combined punk energy with the rhythmic and harmonic sophistication of progressive rock. » Read more

2020-07-12
Judy Dyble RIP – Singer-songwriter Judy Dyble, who was a founding member of Fairport Convention and one of the distinctive voices of the 60s folk revival in Britain, has died at the age of 71. Her passing came at the end of a long illness, though which she continued to work. » Read more

2020-07-06
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Jean-Philippe Goude - Drones – Jean Philippe Goude played keyboards in Bernard Paganotti’s band Weidorje until 1979. At that time he recorded Drones and involved the various musicians he had worked with: Klaus Blasquiz,...  (1994) » Read more

Zaragon - No Return – At some point in the past I had heard this obscure Danish five-piece compared with IQ. In fact, after finally hearing it, that assessment seems to be quite inaccurate. Yes, there are some...  (1995) » Read more

Gongzilla - Live – Musically, Gongzilla is the branch of the Gong family tree which favors instrumental fusion with heavy guitar and vibraphone. Historically, Gongzilla is the descendent of Pierre Merlin’s Gong...  (2002) » Read more

Saddar Bazaar - The Conference of the Birds – An instrumental four-piece from the UK, Saddar Bazaar sports a strong ethnic flavor, featuring a variety of non-western instruments such as sitar, kubing, dholak, agoual, and tablas, as well as the...  (1996) » Read more

Amaia Zubiria / Pascal Gaigne - Zineman – This is a serene, sometimes melancholy album of predominantly instrumental pieces. Pascal Gaigne alternates between piano, accordion, synth, and some brief acoustic guitar. He is joined on various...  (1997) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues