“These beams of silvery sonic light are absolute gems.”
- e/i Magazine
Unbound is veteran ambient musician Forrest Fang exploring lush and abstract terrain under the Sans Serif moniker. Using very small - at times microscopic - sounds as source material, Fang utilizes a vocabulary of long shimmering tones that gradually warp, mutate and transform over the course of a piece.
Fang explains, “The Sans Serif project is my tribute to minimalism. For each piece, I have stripped sound down to certain tones and sonic elements that reappear, with variations, on a much larger scale. The processed elements are the ‘clouds’ in each piece’s landscape that gradually shift from one end of the landscape to the other.“
On Unbound, Fang takes the Sans Serif concept one step further by creating a series of extended soundscapes, each with its own distinct personality and mood. The varied atmospheres range from incandescent ("A Silver Season") to dark ("Lost Oracle"). Though rooted in abstraction, at times the music possesses an almost luminous physicality. The pieces on Unbound contribute to an unhurried organic flow that culminates in the multi-textural closer, “Tone In Alium,” a piece loosely inspired by Thomas Tallis’ 16th-Century polyphonic work, “Spem In Alium.”
Unbound is Fang’s 10th solo album, 3rd Projekt release and 2nd release from Sans Serif. Not surprisingly, Sans Serif’s first release, Tones for LaMonte (Hypnos, 2008), was a tribute to minimalist composer La Monte Young. Throughout, the subtle psychoacoustics invite headphone listening, but its grand scale may perhaps be best appreciated over speakers.
“Strings are grazed, tones are warm, rich and resonant, the atmospheres serene and enchanting.”
- White-Line Blog
Forrest Fang's third album on Projekt continues in the elegantly meditative vein of his previous two efforts: his calm, precise way around predominantly electronic arrangements suggest something that never quite was, but still should be. The sense of patience and space in a busy world is a far from new one in both Fang's work and in the general field of exploratory electronic textures, but Unbound is not meant to be a radical break or step forward so much as a restating of the possibilities. "Henon's Aurora" begins the album in an expected enough way, with an interweaving of serene, slow, high-pitched parts that feel like a low velocity flight through the highest of skies. It sets the tone that the album mostly maintains throughout its five individual parts; for the most part, the parts don't blend into each other, but they are all of a piece, carefully constructed and designed to take a listener to a spot that doesn't need leaving. The switch from "Lost Oracle" to "A Silver Season" is the smoothest, though, and serves as a way to make the former's steadier flow act as an introduction to the latter's most upfront, almost exultant feeling. It's not that Fang's work suddenly turns into Sousa fanfares, but a brighter sensibility, more layers to the sound throughout, and a sense of light bursting through the clouds is what "A Silver Season" evokes, a next step upward to somewhere. Throughout there's as much a sense of uneasy preternatural chill as there is of sheer reflective stasis -- "Chant of Urm" is a strong example; a blend of darker- and lighter-sounding parts in careful balance throughout while the occasional soft swell of further tones adds a sense of steady progression. "Tone in Alium," the album closer, plays up these differences even more, with a rhythmic howling-wind sound recurring against softer synths. -Ned Raggett
L'esperto compositore Forrest Fang riprende le redini del suo progetto parallelo Sans Serif, per cui era finora uscito un solo album. Questo nuovo capitolo continua a far leva su tonalità minimali generate utilizzando suoni microscopici dilatati e sovrapposti, creando immense distese armoniche che si muovono lente e imperturbabili, segnate da uno scorrere incessante, quasi a mimare il movimento delle nuvole, del vento o delle onde marine. Nonostante l'uniformità compositiva, le cinque tracce del CD descrivono atmosfere diverse: ne è esempio la decisa luminescenza di "A Silver Season", i toni più bassi e cupi di "Lost Oracle" o la meditazione quasi religiosa di "Henon's Aurora". La maestosa chiusa di "Tone In Alium" - forse il momento più alto del disco - è liberamente ispirata dal componimento polifonico "Spem In Alium", risalente al Sedicesimo secolo e firmato dall'inglese Thomas Tallis, di cui Fang sembra ripercorrere la pluralità armonica con mezzi moderni ed elettronici. Se da un lato "Unbound" ci rimanda ad un'ambient astratta e naturalistica al tempo stesso, cara ad una lunga lista di autori (a partire da Steve Roach), dall'altra trova la sua figura totemica in La Monte Young, musicista statunitense da cui Fang sembra trarre una profonda ispirazione almeno a livello strutturale, e a cui viene non a caso dedicato "Tones For LaMonte", primo disco di Sans Serif. Il fascino dell'opera viene completato da una confezione elegante in digisleeve apribile e arricchita dal mastering di Robert Rich, decano dell'ambient music. -Michele Viali
A review from Fan Review - Richard Gürtler (Bratislava, Slovakia):
The Chinese-American Forrest Fang is mostly known for his unique, at times quite eclectic and oriental blend of exotic instruments and modern electronics, especially on his earlier albums, but on his side project Sans Serif he focuses on sparse and droning atmospherics. "Unbound" reveals impressively with "Henon's Aurora", deep, imaginative and immersive sky high travel, I am hooked right away! "Chant Of Urm" gets darker and more massive, another masterfully mysterious sonic statement of Forrest and for me, one of the most remarkable and evocative compositions, more please! Culminating tension goes through gloomy "Lost Oracle", but still on its minimal drifting path. "A Silver Season" keeps the tension, slightly more active, but strongly mesmerizing. Closing opus, ethereal "Tone In Alium", is beautifully floating and culminating piece with synthesized heavenly choirs, sounding more orchestral at times. Absolutely gorgeous sonic voyage of deep spaciousness!!! No matter if it's Forrest Fang or Sans Serif, in both cases we are confronted with blissful soundscaping experiences. "Unbound", mastered by Robert Rich and packaged in eco CD wallet featuring simple, but fitting cover artwork (photography by Mark Mushet), is a polished effort in the deepest end of pure atmospheric ambience!!! Well done, Forrest!!!
The hour or so it takes to find your way through the fog-shrouded washes and drones of Forrest Fang’s Unbound is time extremely well spent. The San Serif project is Fang’s exercise in minimalism. Here, he notes on his site, it’s minimalism crossed with a “maximalist twist.” The source sounds are stripped down to certain tones and elements that are reworked into large, long, tonally dense structures. The listener is treated to five extended works, each with its own identity, each in varying shades of light and dark, uplifting and ominous–and, of course, often several of these in one sitting. There’s a great range of emotion at play, mood changes that come on like unnoticed shifts in wind direction. Unbound is a dynamically meditative work, which is to say that while Fang’s cloudy drones are absolutely relaxing, there is constantly so much going on, in a very good way, that it deserves as much attention as you can manage to give it. (It’s the great ambient Catch-22: there’s a lot you need to hear, but your mind has floated off somewhere…)
This is a must-loop disc, and a superb low-volume listen. Fang’s structures seem to adapt to volume, or to subtly change in the way they enter and affect the space. A gorgeous work that’s especially appealing to drone and minimalist fans. This is the second San Serif disc; I look forward to many more to come.
“Unbound” es el título del tercer álbum presentado por Forrest Fang en este año 2011 a través del prestigioso sello discográfico PROJEKT RECORDS. Una edición cuyo diseño, basado en las fotografías tomadas por Mark Mushet, ha sido creado por el propio Sam Rosenthal como fiel imagen evanescente del espíritu artístico de Forrest Fang mostrado en su proyecto Sans Serif. Un estilo musical caracterizado por un ambient de corte minimalista que dejará a los lectores de Lux Atenea Webzine enganchados a esta impresionante audición. Una expansión de los sentidos que les llevará a probar esta sensibilidad mental y sensorial a través de seis temas instrumentales que, englobados dentro de un viaje experimental de raíz vanguardista e innovadora, convierten cada nuevo álbum de Forrest Fang en un incomparable despliegue de talento musical. Los tonos, el tempo, sus expansivas dimensiones sonoras, las texturas creadas partiendo de la esencia armónica más melódica,… nos ofrecen esa alma artística con el sello inconfundible Forrest Fang. Por este motivo, escuchando composiciones como “Heron´s Aurora” o “A Silver Season” es inevitable caer en esa paz interior de la que no desearíamos salir. Una visión universal del espíritu humano que se percibe nítidamente en otros temas como “Lost Oracle”, o mientras entramos en procesos más reflexivos y solemnes durante la audición de composiciones como “Chant Of Urm”. Finalmente, con la esplendorosa composición “Tone In Alium” nos iremos acercando poco a poco al ocaso sonoro de este impresionante álbum, dejando nuestra mente en ese estado de serenidad que tanto ansiamos tener en medio de esta acelerada sociedad del siglo XXI que estamos viviendo. “Unbound”, el culto al detalle sonoro como clave fundamental de un álbum espectacularmente bello. ¡¡¡Disfrútenlo!!! -Lux_Atman
This release from 2011 offers 57 minutes of extreme ambience.
According to veteran ambient musician Fang: "The Sans Serif project grew out of my interest in creating large-scale sonic environments from very small sounds." His success in this is immediately obvious, from the initial tenuous tonality, through to the endearing final harmonic.
Ethereal tones waft in and endure, lingering with shimmering results. The atmospherics are very high altitude, chilly and sparse, yet evocative and crisp. The mood is haunting, but in a wistful manner, inspiring longing and a fascination for the void.
The electronics are soft and delicate, pulsations whose lifespan is elongated into seemingly endless duration. Each electronic breath is tantalized by auxiliary tones that serve as subliminal embellishment, fleshing out the minimalist structure to a lush emotionally charged state without violating the music's inherent tranquil character.
Each subsequent track explores a different corner of this vast region of empty space, revealing surprising depth by examining clusters of immaterial formalization.
Constructed of layers of textural delicacy, this music exists just at the brink of the listener's attention, but does not go unnoticed by the cerebellum. Fang's use of minimal definition results in tuneage that barely exists, but those hardly noticeable drones achieve a lasting influence. This music is peaceful, yet intellectually stimulating. -Matt Howarth
is the second release of Sans Serif, aka Forrest Fang, of which the ambient music was assembled from an assortment of lost and found microscopic sounds as source material. As Mr Fang further explains The Sans Serif project is his personal tribute to minimalism. For each piece, he had stripped the sound down to certain tones and sonic elements that reappear, with variations, on a much larger scale. The processed elements are the "clouds" in each piece's sonic landscape that gradually shift from one end of the landscape to the other. Well, Unbound
(again featuring the impeccable cd-mastering of Robert Rich) offers a beautiful kaleidoscope of soft shimmering textures and imaginary sound paintings which will be appreciated by listeners of slow lane music. Its warm and gentle flowing ambience of subtle sphere-scapes and mesmerizing psychoacoustics smoothly shape-shift. Fang's abstract minimalism tells an introspective story of its own that never fails to fascinate, smoothly rising and falling during the journey. “Unbound’s” morphing, large-scale ambient soundscapes beautifully mirror the depths, layers and dimensions of intrinsic beauty. Nice going, Mr Fang!
P.S. As a thank you to his fans, the artist is also offering a new piece for free download on his own website. It’s called “The Unbound Protoplasm,” is an ambient deconstruction of elements from all five of the pieces on Unbound.
The ambient music of Forrest Fang ("Folklore", "The Blind Messanger", "Gongland") is hardly baroque, but it is rich and lush and suggestively pictoral. With Unbound, he reduces his palette drastically, just like the typeface ”sans serif” is peeled back to the very essence of the alphabet – no extraneous flourishes at the top or bottom of each letter. Fang himself writes that he has long meditated on a project creating ”large-scale sonic environments from very small sounds” and has dipped into unreleased material to mine sonic resources. He certainly has achieved his goal with elan. ”Henon´s Aurora” peals like the single strike of a bell drawn out and striving upward until it dies out in a cluster of stars. ”Chant of Urm” whirls and glistens like a galaxy. Each of the five extended tracks is a kind of deceptively solid beam whose waves and particles are discernable upon closer scrutiny. Calling them drones is too mundane, and a disservice, to boot. They are presences. -Stephen Fruitman
Sans Serif is the name under which World Ambient multi-instrumentalist Forrest Fang releases his Minimalist inspired music. The five compositions on Unbound (57'23") each explore a distinctive atmosphere. With their gradually shifting timbral planes, slowly falling contours and steady permutations between light and dark sounds, the pieces occupy space much like cloud cover in an ever-changing overcast sky. Without the well-defined reference points of melody, harmony or a discernable rhythm, listening is a pure experience - with all narrative or meaning derived entirely by the listener. The primary objective of Unbound is to realize music through variations and changes in texture. With its long tones and metallic soundscapes Sans Sarif generates a work without crescendo, noticeable highs or lows, nor a beginning, middle or end. It may be barely perceived - at the periphery of our attention, or carefully scrutinized. This is Ambient Music at its most absolute. - Chuck van Zyl/STAR'S END 30 March 2011
Forrest Fang is an American musician, of Chinese descent, who specializes in the ambient music tinted with ethnicity and minimalism. Inspired by Steve Roach, Robert Rich and other pioneers of ambient American EM, Forrest Fang navigates in the musical ocean that is EM since 1981 with his first opus; Music From the Blackboard Jungle. Unbound is his 12th work and his 3rd on Sam Rosenthal’s label; Projekt. Mastered by Robert Rich, Unbound is a long musical odyssey impregnated of long linear movements which are criss-crossing in a curious interbreeding of harmonies where the blackness of the morphic movements embraces strange iridescent odes.
"Henon’s Aurora" opens this ambient odyssey with a fine synth line which clears itself a path among some discreet ringing. A fine movement of a surprising tranquillity is deploying around this delicate introductory line which sways of a harmonious acuteness and frees astral choirs which are moulding along those long and sinuous shimmering curves.
Between abysses of Steve Roach's Immersion series and Michael Stearns's angelic musicality, "Henon’s Aurora" progresses with a stunning astral impact where the multiplicity of its waves creates a superb cosmic Angelus which brings us straight ahead in Morpheus’ arms. An excellent track for sleepless quite as the final track "Tone in Alium". Between them, the musical voyage of Unbound falls over to a sombre nightmarish atmosphere which starts with "Chant Of Urm" of which sinister lines and waves wind roguishly in a more metallic musical universe. Synth wanderings floating such as powerful sonorous rustlings which are entwining to hardly audible murmurs from a chorus of which breathes have difficulty to pierce a dense opaqueness, from where filter some more crystal clear synth winds. The more we move in Unbound and the more the musical blackness seizes our ears, as well as our reveries. "Lost Oracle" follows these long morphic curves which criss-cross throughout Unbound, with a dark mortuary approach where lugubrious iridescent waves undulate and waltz unexpectedly in a morbid static ballet. We have this strange feeling of hearing there some curious lethal chants from souls to shrill tears. "To Silver Season" continues this lugubrious impassiveness evolution of Unbound with ethereal waves which float and interlace in an inertia where long breezes of synth go alongside as much in musicality as in metallicity.
Morphic and atonic, but also harmonious than platonic, Forrest Fang’s Unbound is an ambient album which we tame from the tips of our ears. The musical universe is fed of long and slow layers of a morphic synth which waltz sinuously into implosive movements. It’s an extremely floating music which gets out of Steve Roach's Immersion limbs, but with a subtle harmonious touch that we hear if we consent to travel along these ethereal waves that surround Unbound. This is for fans of deep ambient music. -Sylvain Lupari
Using tiny, even microscopic sounds as source material for his minimalistic Sans Serif productions, ambient composer Forrest Fang arranges glassy tones into luscious fields of resplendent, cathedralesque sound. The cloud-like swirl coursing through any one of the five long-form pieces (all but one exceed the ten-minute mark) consituting Unbound shimmers and pulsates with energy as it carves its slow and steady path across the sky. Mastered by Robert Rich, the Projekt release is Fang's tenth solo album and the second under the Sans Serif name, being a follow-up to 2008's Tones for LaMonte, a lovely tribute to La Monte Young, of course, that appeared on the wonderful Hypnos imprint. Admirers of that release will find as much to admire on the new release, as it largely perpetuates the style of the earlier one.
Unbound would appear to be, in some small measure, an exercise in archeology, given Fang's acknowledgement that some of the tracks' originating sounds came from unreleased pieces and early pieces dating back to his DIY-cassette culture days. But, as one would expect, no audible sounds of rust are evident when the originating materials have been subjected to the extensive manipulations one presumes they were as the tracks made their way towards completion. Melody is deemphasized if not absent altogether, and no discernible rhythms declare themselves either, but such omissions are by design, as Unbound's focus is immersive flow characterized by pitch contrasts and subtly shifting layers—as much electronic impressionism as ambient. Such contrasts emerge within the individual setting and also between the tracks themselves, with a certain one glistening more luminescently than another (“Henon's Aurora,” “A Silver Season”) and another darker in tone, for example (“Lost Oracle”). Adding to the release's appeal is its closing piece, “Tone In Alium,” a series of rising-and-falling windswept variations that takes as its inspiration Thomas Tallis's 16th-century work, “Spem In Alium.” No one who's listened to Unbound's first four settings should be too surprised to discover that the closing one doesn't deviate all that radically in style from the preceding ones, even if its sound sources are different.