Forrest Fang — The Book of Wanderers
(Projekt PRO374, 2020, CD / DL)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2020-09-14
It seems like just yesterday I was writing a review of Fang’s previous album, Ancient Machines – his pace seems to be picking up speed of late, without any sacrifice of quality. In fact each succeeding album is more engaging than the one before it. It may be due to the fact that every new composition seems to be informed by a summary of everything he has done before, blended with new ideas as they appear, amid layers and layers of sound that reflect surprisingly well the breadth of ideas that are pulled together in the end result, the ten tracks on his latest, The Book of Wanderers being a culmination of sorts, echoing elements of at least a dozen previous releases while at the same time presenting something interesting and new. There’s no doubt that technology in 2020 makes the execution of complex musical ideas far easier than back in the early 80s when Fang started his career, no doubt contributing to the greater sonic density of his current work, as well as the pace at which new works can be resolved. Early influences like Reich and Glass still underpin a lot of the pieces here, but the gamelan and folk influences that came forward in the 90s are represented in strength. The nine-minute opener, “An Atom on a Long Chain,” is blessed by tuned percussion, bells, and a stirring undercurrent of both cyclical rhythms and dreamy textures; it’s one of those pieces that has so much going on that one could just listen to it over and over, hearing something new or in a different way with each listen. “Song of the Wanderer” is a few minutes shorter but pulls in the strong gamelan influences that will remind the listener of The Wolf at the Ruins or World Diary, with deep gongs, bells, and tuned percussion highlighting nearly every measure. A mystical percussive harp-like sound leads the way forward on “Chasing Stars,” immersed in a dreamy blanket of beautiful textures. A shorter piece for soft echoey piano with strings backing, “Astir” changes the mood to one of peace and prepares the listener for the thirteen-minute epic “Atlantis,” proceeding like a dreamy walk in the fog along the white fences from long ago, punctuated by bells and gongs, with shimmering textures floating off in the distance. The album closer, “Kepler’s Return,” is a cauldron of swirling electronics, shimmering strings, and interweaving massed choral panorama. Throughout The Book of Wanderers, something new is revealed with each repeat listen.
Related artist(s): Forrest Fang
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