Exposé Online banner

Forrest Fang — The Wolf at the Ruins / Migration
(Projekt 290, 1989/2013, 2CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2013-10-15

The Wolf at the Ruins / Migration Cover art

The miniscule amount of Forrest Fang's music I heard before this reissue arrived was mostly electronic ambient stuff, which is nice enough but not something I'm going to seek out very often. I was pleasantly surprised to find something almost completely different on these two albums from early in his musical career. Migration, originally from 1986, features piano, organ, and other instruments prominently, and even at times reminds me of Dirk "Mont" Campbell's Music from a Round Tower. There's a similar aura of suspension, that while time is passing, marked by notes and other events, emotion is in stasis, waiting for something which can't be predicted. This something may never come, but there is no loss, as we can just enjoy the moment while we are in it. Often the pieces are constructed of interlocking parts on keyboards, weaving in and out of sync with each other — I'm reminded of the tinkling background of Peter Gabriel's "San Jacinto." And even further from electronic drones is a piece like "Koshi," performed on acoustic guitars and sounding for all the world like something off one of Anthony Phillips' Private Parts and Pieces collections. Other pieces stick mostly or completely with synthesizers, but this is not electronic music like most of what's out there. While there are often repeating patterns, they don't really sound sequenced — there's a more natural feel to them, giving the impression of a group of musicians actually playing the parts rather than an electronic clock triggering programmed events.

The Wolf at the Ruins, first released in 1989, starts out even further removed from electronic music, with a solo guzheng drenched in reverb, joined after a minute or so by other sounds, but retaining an overall air of natural sound. This piece, "The Windmill," is a lovely meditation on multiple instruments, mostly involving plucked strings with some bowed violin for contrast. Towards the end, a marimba sneaks in, imparting a slight African spice to the Chinese dish. Then we begin a "Passage and Ascent," which approaches some near-ambient sounds with masses of synth pads, only developing a rhythm after three minutes; over the course of nearly 12 minutes, the piece journeys through several sections, each smoothly blended from the previous, each with different textures and energies. The third track adds yet another element to Fang's palette: percussion of various origins — latin, Asian, and whatnot, bringing to mind Steve Tibbetts' work (though with much broader instrumentation) as well as Jade Warrior's mid-70s releases. By this point, many of the album's parameters are established, and from here on out, they are blended in varying combinations for varying moods. The centerpiece, clocking in just short of 24 minutes, is "An Amulet and a Travelogue," which is a masterpiece of slow development and subtle beauty, built of numerous vignettes which could have been indexed separately. The use of violin, guitar, and other acoustic instruments in some sections sets this apart from anything else I can think of. Simply marvelous — kudos to Projekt for bringing this amazing music out of obscurity.


Filed under: Reissues, 2013 releases, 1989 recordings

Related artist(s): Forrest Fang

Latest news

2018-05-14
Glenn Branca RIP – Experimental guitarist and composer Glenn Branca has died at the age of 69. He was known for compositions featuring large ensembles of guitars, and for the use of feedback. He founded his band Theoretical Girls in the mid-70s as an art-punk answer to what he saw as the increasing commercialization of punk music. His compositions were highly influential, with such figures as David Bowie, Thurston Moore, and John Lurie among his fans. » Read more

2018-04-05
OBEY Convention XI Set for May 24-28 in Halifax – As the 2018 festival season rapidly approaches, we’d like you to be aware of a real treasure of diverse and creative music that’s going to take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, next month. The OBEY Convention is on its 11th outing, and features a wide range of artists from around the world. From avant-industrial noise to experimental takes on Classical Chinese music, from chamber jazz to doom metal, from ambient soundscapes to Canadian First Nations drumming, you’d be hard pressed to find a festival with more variety in sound anywhere in the world. » Read more

2018-04-04
Close to the Rain Festival in Bergen Announces Lineup – Now in its second year, the Close to the Rain Festival of progressive music is scheduled to take place in Bergen, Norway, on June 7 - 9. They've got an amazing slate of bands lined up, including such powerhouses as Anekdoten, Major Parkinson, Arabs in Aspic, Tusmørke, and many more. » Read more

2018-03-01
Seaprog 2018 Artist Announcements Raise Festival's Profile – Seattle's Seaprog festival has been going since 2013, and the 2018 edition features a slate of artists that's sure to bring more attention to the event. Cheer-Accident, Bubblemath, and Free Salamander Exhibit are in the first round announcement of performers. In keeping with their tradition of focusing on regional artists, they will also present a number of artists from Washington and Oregon. [Edit: Just added: Inner Ear Brigade] » Read more

2018-02-26
Adelbert von Deyen RIP – Word reaches us that German electronic musician Adelbert von Deyen has died. His recorded legacy reaches back to 1978, when Sky Records released Sternzeit. Von Deyen, who was born October 25, 1953 in Süderbrarup, was also known as a painter and graphic artist. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Seven That Spells - The Men from Dystopia – Who is the King of the Endless Riff? This Croatian band makes a credible case for their royal status on this release. The five tracks here, named simply with Roman numerals, flow without much...  (2009) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues