Forrest Fang — Scenes from a Ghost Train
(Projekt 349, 2018, CD)
by Peter Thelen, 2018-02-14:
From the blackboard jungle to the waning crescent and beyond, visionary composer Forrest Fang has been honing and perfecting his craft since the early 80s, and if I’m not mistaken Scenes from a Ghost Train is his 16th release. His work is visionary, built upon layers of atmospherics, subtle percussive elements, world instruments, and plenty of sound processing, delays, and loops. Melodies embed themselves within the sonic fabric, and reveal themselves as events at various points, like markers on a journey through haze. Although each successive album is different in its own way, his production methods are unique and instantly recognizable as such, and like The Sleepwalker’s Ocean and Following the Ether Sun before it, Scenes… makes good on the dense layers of atmospherics that offer a floating ambient wash within which all other events shimmer. Opening with the four-part twenty-one minute title suite, Fang intoduces his soundwall as it brims with depth and shimmers with breath, all flowing outward from a stream of consciousness. The second section introduces more melodic elements, almost like the random ringing of bells over a bed of processed world instruments (which may include saron, cántaro, cumbus, kendang, and violin) each revealing itself as the piece proceeds. On the third and fourth sections, Dave Newhouse (ex-Muffins) joins in on various woodwinds, while more prominent percussive elements are brought closer to the fore, along with more evidence of eastern instruments (section four, “The Pulse of the Stars” is built up over a bed of violin and zither or santoor, with Newhouse’s flutes and soprano sax mixing freely with the atmospheres, and bass clarinet revealing itself at the bottom end, bringing the suite to a powerful conclusion. Among the five remaining pieces, “Enfolding” takes the listener on a ten-minute deep space journey that cycles through layers of sound in slow-evolving loops, with elements of the fabric glistening like slow-moving moonlight on a restless lake. “The Great Migration” is another side-long piece that opens with a slightly softer approach, like riding through a pillow of clouds, looping and evolving slowly as it goes, and revealing a vast panoramic soundworld of subtle imagery, with some mysterious percussive elements carrying it forward from the fourteen-minute mark. Overall, the entire disc fits in perfectly with Fang’s visionary style. If you haven't explored his work yet, let this be the starting point.
by Jon Davis, 2018-02-14:
The thing I notice most about Forrest Fang’s music is that his sounds create a world of their own, seemingly existing within an infinite space of possible sounds, all of which are distinctly his. All of these notes and textures are present in their own places within this world, and the listener, guided by the composer, wanders among them as if exploring a varied landscape. In one area is a pulsing node of string-like sounds phasing through various tonalities; a little way to one side is a chasm from which tinkling bell-like tones emanate; off to another side is a knot of percolating marimba-like notes; up above is a slowly turning globule of sparkling piano notes; off in the distance is another node of strings, this one playing different notes. Like a skilled tour guide with a sense of drama, Fang leads us around this virtual world, approaching one sonic node after another, but never getting so close to any that others are not also audible. There’s a dream-like suspension of time as we pass through space — nothing happens quickly, and whenever we notice a new sound, we realize that it was there before, just below our threshold of focus. In the far distance, we’re dimly aware of still more sounds, but they remain obscure, elements that may show up later in our path, or on our (Fang’s) next journey, or maybe remain from some previous trip. Forrest Fang has a room with a sign on the door: All Sounds Are Yours. And it contains not every sound that is possible, but every sound that he has ever used, or ever will use, or maybe it’s the same thing because time doesn’t function as we expect, at least not in this place. (Apologies to Hermann Hesse for adapting his idea.) No one rides the Ghost Train — we all become ghosts on it, witness to the ghosts of sounds past, present, and future. It is a peaceful journey — the ghosts are not malevolent. Nor are they beneficent — they just are.
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more
Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin - Green and Blue & Hour Moon – The first new set of music in over 15 years from sophisticated pop duo keyboardist Dave Stewart and vocalist Barbara Gaskin is a strong reason for celebration. The two have not lost step with their... (2010) » Read more
Twelfth Night - Smiling at Grief & Art and Illusion - The Definitive Editions – Those interested in discovering the roots of neo-prog owe it to themselves to explore the music of Twelfth Night, and I can’t think of a better place to start than here. Smiling at Grief was... (2011) » Read more