(2019) Forrest Fang - Ancient Machines
For his eighteenth album, Forrest Fang drew for inspiration from the early, trance-inducing minimalism of Terry Riley’s Persian Surgery Dervishes and Philip Glass’s Einstein On the Beach. Don’t think, however, that Fang’s use of minimalism-styled repetition has dramatically altered the trajectory his output has followed to date: Ancient Machines is instantly recognizable as material by the Bay Area-based multi-instrumentalist, who again combines acoustic and electronic sounds into a stylistically diverse presentation spanning Eastern and Western musical traditions. While Javanese gamelan and ambient electronica are conspicuous reference points in the eleven productions, the typical piece resists simple categorization when Fang’s various influences are integrated as seamlessly as they are. Sweeping synthesizer-generated washes merge with the sound of acoustic instruments and percussion, Fang’s luscious, multitiered music checking classical, ambient, gamelan, and other boxes as it wends its mystical way through the recording’s seventy-plus minutes. An early standout, the three-part The Celestial Diver begins with “Winds of Betelgeuse,” a World Music-styled soundscape exercise rooted as equally in Eastern percussion as vaporous ambient. As engulfing ambient winds howl in the background, hand drums and harpsichord patterns combine to arresting effect, after which a clanging, dulcimer-like instrument offsets the otherwise serene ambiance of “Shooting Star” and “Traceries” threads intricate harpsichord patterns into a 7/8 rhythmic framework. Whereas the album’s gamelan dimension advances to the fore during the percussion-heavy interlude “Smoke Rings” and synths-drenched soundscape “Zone One,” the meditative effect of the ambient-electronic space music setting “The Other Earth” is bolstered by its ten-minute duration and the lulling swirl of its ethereal tones. Certainly one of the album’s prettiest and most memorable settings is “In Air, It Seems” for its peaceful, contemplation-inducing melding of piano, violin, and ambient washes. The title and cover imagery Fang selected for the release are in keeping with the music’s fantastical character. Given the depiction of biological organisms of some alien kind on the cover, the title could be interpreted as an allusion to the machine-like functioning of sentient life forms, human and otherwise, that’s been in place for millennia. As with all Fang releases, however, Ancient Machines holds up solidly on musical terms alone, the other aspects essentially supplemental to the experience. And, finally, one shouldn’t make too much of the aforementioned influence of Riley and Glass on the project; while subtle nods to minimalism are present, the album’s panoramic character is consistent stylistically with others preceding it in Fang’s discography.
Format/Info: Free Lossless Audio Codec, 16-bit PCM
Bit rate mode: Variable
Channel(s): 2 channels
Sampling rate: 44.1 KHz
Bit depth: 16 bits