Returning to the ambient explorations shown on earlier albums like The Wolf at the Ruins, on Gongland, Fang, to quote his liner notes, explores his "recent and continuing fascination with Indonesian gamelan music, fractals, alternate tunings, and esoteric algorithms." It's a combination sure to bemuse many -- and those purists who favor their gamelan straight up will likely wish there was far less synth orchestration and sonic wash in the mix. Those who approach Gongland on its own terms will be well rewarded, though, showing that Fang makes a perfect labelmate for such spirits as Vidna Obmana and Steve Roach. His range of instrument choices continues to display true variety -- credited instruments include chin-chin, Marxolin, and Japanese palm harp, not to mention the specific "algorithms" mentioned previously. The basic combination of each song can be described as a "traditional" instrument providing a main countermelody or contrast to the synthesized flow of the overall piece -- a seemingly simple formula, but given the choices of music to work with, more complex and variable than might be thought. "4 A.M.," for instance, where the plucking sounds of the chin-chin cut just sharply enough through the gentle tones and atmospheres appropriate for the time in question, functions as both straight ambient background and a striking combination of old and new. The rolling bell percussion sounds of gamelan unsurprisingly crop up throughout -- one song isn't called "Chaos Gamelan" for nothing -- which with Fang's usual level of treatment and mix take on new shades and shapes in the overall mix. Two pieces, "Sonosphere" and "Sierpinski Palm," are especially fine in showing Fang's ability at creating longer numbers that aren't boring or repetitious, finding new approaches as they go. Good for late night relaxation or close attention both.
~ Ned Raggett
, perhaps his best album yet, Forrest Fang moves delicately from slowly throbbing percussive rhythms to dreamy, floating synthesizer ambiences with finesse and grace. Gongland
contains amyraid of elements, which drift slowly and surely into each other, each in their own unique way, and on close listening, the unique structure of each compostion becomes apparent. Fang describes the new album in these words: "It is my first ambient CD since my 1989 release, "The Wolf At The Ruins," and has been 2 to 3 years in the making. Expect a lot of shifting atmospheres and exotic textures." The best part of Fang's sound constructions are the way they can arouse fascination and maintain it. Never failing to capture a fresh sonic atmosphere to explore, the California-based composer has hit the mark again with Gongland
. On Gongland
, Fang produces soundscapes suffused with peace and a sense of floating and drifting beauty that are wondrous to explore. The music of Forrest Fang is a collection of shifting, layered ambient textures and slow, hypnotic layers of sound that gradually consume the senses. He is a multi-instrumentalist and composer who has released 7 recordings over the past 17 years for the Ominous Thud and Cuneiform Records labels. Forrest Fang's music succeeds, because it takes chances, avoids intellectual trappings, and possesses a strong sense of identity and cohesiveness. His eclectic music incorporates both Western and non-Western influences as wide-ranging as minimalism and Chinese classical music.The thirteen compositions create an organic shimmering sound like random molecular movement. Absolutely entrancing and mood-seducing, this is active ambient music that contains an abundance of lush, warm sounds that invite, beckon and entice; ...an utterly sublime tour of outer and inner space.
The album is a collection of simple, uncluttered, unhurried timbres, a by-product of a minimalist sensibility that maintains a balance of quiet intensity throughout the album. The music offers the listener an opportunity to touch the pulse of pure consciousness with non-Western influences such as Indonesian gamelan music. Each place evokes a place, a natural environment, a state of being. The composer is subtle in his use of eclectic resources that span the techno-tribal spectrum. Fang proves the adage that it isn't the equipment that empowers the mind, but the ability and imagination. Gongland is a perfect introduction to this talented artist's imagination; an impressive body of work that is far ahead of its time.
- Ben Kettlewell
There is something unique and special about Forrest Fang's music. While he seems to take an intellectual approach in its analysis, the music itself is strikingly honest and personal in mood and tone. His music straddles numerous categories in ways that transcend cherry-picking influences and utilizes inborn cultural inspirations. There are stylistic similarities to Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Brian Eno, Mark Mothersbaugh and others, and his natural interest in Chinese instruments and tonalities are in place, but what Fang does with all of this surpasses the sum of its parts. Ambient music typically takes the listener on external drifts through space and beyond, but Fang's music travels in the opposite direction, traversing an internal mindscape of thought and emotion no less expansive. There's the sense of an untold story behind the music, the details of which can be derived from the listener's imagination or personal experience. From the opening "Circling Spirits," with its kaleidoscopic blend of gamelan and electronics, to "4 a.m." and its inflections of Chinese acoustics, a tone of mystical self-awareness has seeped into the swamp of human perception. By mid-journey, Fang has entered a dreamy, ghostly terrain, passing through the disorienting "Sonosphere" to arrive at the distant melancholia of "Microna." And by journey's end, you feel as though you've been washed in a cleansing rain of beautiful tears.
- Mark Burbey
A review from Barnes & Noble:
Explore the sonic spheres of higher mathematics with this fascinating album by electronic music composer Forrest Fang. Using fractals and algorithms as his raw source material, Fang layers and shapes them into compositions full of verve and subtlety. Lacking any distinguishable meter, the pieces pass through time in an array of phase shifts, sequences, and pulses rather than conventional rhythms. The aptly titled "Some Unfinished Business" sounds like a nursery of baby taxi cabs tooting for their mothers, while a choir of angelic vocalise floats overhead and little sound critters chirp and scurry underneath like a gaggle of bugs. "Chaos Gamelan" exhibits Fang's mastery of sundry Asian instruments, layering the metallic gongs of the gamelan among the wild fluttering of sparkling chimes; the resulting sense of chaos somehow feels strangely peaceful. Fang sounds as if he's trying to charm the air spirits as he plucks the lonely voiced Chinese chin-chin on "4 a.m." Indeed, Gongland is uncannily tuned into the sounds of the natural world, making the noises outside of one's window nearly indistinguishable from the recording.
~ Carol Wright
A review from Napra Review Magazine:
This is a surprising collection of pieces that combine electronics simplicity with overtones of Asian rhythms. Based in fractal geometry, Fang's music represents the fine line between the known and the unknown, what the ear can tollerate and what the Western mind can understand and embrace. Going straight to the order within chaos, Fang's music holds a powerful key to mathematical truths and an intrinsic pattern that can be clearly apprenhended by an ear governed by an open mind. He layers a rich array of tones one on top of the other, in the same way as visually represented by fractal geometry. This album will be welcomed by mediators for its simple order in relation to sentience as well as by explorers who like to surf waves of thought and strata of consciousness. - TJE