Exposé Online banner

Forrest Fang — Scenes from a Ghost Train
(Projekt 349, 2018, CD)

by Peter Thelen, 2018-02-14:

Scenes from a Ghost Train Cover art

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.


Filed under: New releases , 2018 releases

Related artist(s): Forrest Fang, Dave Newhouse (Manna / Mirage)

More info

Latest news

2019-03-20
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

2019-03-03
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

2019-02-21
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more

2019-01-31
Keyboardist Ingo Bischof R.I.P. – Keyboard player Ingo Bischof, best known as the longtime keyboard player of German band Kraan, passed away on January 29th, 2019. Bischof was born January 2, 1951 in Berlin-Kreuzberg and joined Kraan in 1975. » Read more

2019-01-11
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Azigza - Kriya – Combining influences from around the world can be a dangerous enterprise for musicians. There will always be some who call foul at the “appropriation” of sounds from other cultures, preferring...  (2004) » Read more

Robert Dick - Third Stone from the Sun – Robert Dick is probably the world's leading proponent of avant-garde flute techniques. His recordings and teachings, including the well-known The Other Flute have opened up literally a whole new...  (1995) » Read more

Dennis Rea - Live at the Forbidden City – Dennis Rea is a Seattle area guitarist who’s worked with Jeff Greinke, Bill Rieflin and may be known to some through his participation with groups Land and Stackpole. Long before he made his...  (2008) » Read more

Carta - An Index of Birds – Carta hail from the S.F. Bay Area and currently consist of Kyle Monday (guitar), Sacha Galvagna (bass, keyboards), Ray Welter (guitar, keyboards), Gabriel Coan (drums, electronics), Jason Perez (bass,...  (2011) » Read more

Sabah Habas Mustapha & The Jugala All Stars - So La Li – Most progressive rock fans know him as Colin Bass, bassist for Camel since the late 70s, but in Indonesia he is Sabah Habas Mustapha, the youngest brother of the famous 3Mustaphas3, an incredibly...  (2001) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues