2. The Unreachable Lands – ii. Song of the Camel
3. The Unreachable Lands – iii. Water Village
4. The Unreachable Lands – iv. Hermitage
5. Burnt Offerings
6. Veldt Hypnosis
8. Seven Coronas
10. Lines to Infinity
Total time: 68:57
Limited Edition of 300 / down to last 20 copies
Download the 3 additional digital-only bonus tracks at Bandcamp.
Letters To The Farthest Star is an ambitious and deeply personal dispatch: a far-reaching sojourn into the diverse ambient/electronic influences that helped shape the last three decades of Fang’s unique “Fourth World” style. Fang began his tenth album with a challenge to himself: create a single work that acknowledged both past and present explorations while hinting at new avenues to come.
Like messages from a universe without geographic borders, these pieces shift from dark, organic ambient passages to emotional, melodic interludes. In those moments, the tracks are textural, propulsive, expressive, and transparent; Fang’s sound is anchored by an Asian sensibility that reflects his fondness for stringed and percussion instruments from China, Indonesia and Turkey.
Fang says, “Letters represents my style boiled to its essence. These tracks represent my musical past and present. I love variety, so I’m expressing different moods and styles in these pieces. They are both light and dark, often simultaneously, while being serious, intense, quiet or more spirited elsewhere. Some pieces are compact and to the point while others are more expansive and immersive.”
In his early years as a musician, Fang studied violin and classical composition while simultaneously creating electronic music on analog modular synthesizers. After moving to the Bay Area in 1984, Fang developed an interest in non-Western music; he studied Chinese classical music on the gu-zheng (Chinese zither), Balinese gamelan and gagaku (Japanese court music). Over the course of 13 albums, Fang has internalized and incorporated these Asian influences into his ambient minimalist style.
The instrument list for Letters (ranging from violins and Turkish lutes to Indonesian percussion) provides a hint toward its stylistic and textural diversity. The album begins with a four-part suite, “The Unreachable Lands,” which charts an imaginary voyage through unknown light and dark regions populated by lutes, drums, zithers, violin, piano, guitar and complex electronic undercurrents. The mood turns pensive with “Burnt Offerings,” which features cumbus and Japanese palm harp. A complex landscape of exotic polyrhythms and textures follows in “Veldt Psychosis,” a piece that evokes a hallucinogenic dream. “Fossils” and “Lorenz” are deep sonic meditations into abstract interior spaces. “Seven Coronas” offers a lyrical turn through a melodic violin riding over a hypnotic cyclical gamelan. The album closes with “Lines to Infinity” featuring layers of delayed electronic mandolin processed like a guitar and played in a 70s German progressive style.
In addition, renowned ambient guitarist Jeff Pearce makes an ethereal appearance on the piano-based track “Hermitage.”
Letters To The Farthest Star, in effect, comes full circle by returning to Fang’s roots as an electronic musician. It is a moving and powerful testament to the exotic musical influences of his past and present.
Street Date: March 3 2015
Het uit de Bay Area USA afkomstige Forrest Fang creëert muziek die balanceert tussen new age en wereldmuziek die vooral zijn inspiratie uit Azië haalt. Geen doorsnee Rockportaal plaat dus, maar wel heerlijk voor de zondagmorgen of voor de late uurtjes net voor het slapen gaan. Het meest inspirerend is de muziek wanneer de verschillende invloeden elkaar versterken. Het in vier stukken gebrachte ‘The Unreachable Lands’ is daar een goed voorbeeld van. Na een langdurige intro (nummer I), komt het tot leven door gebruik te maken van percussie en snaarinstrumenten (II, III en het melancholische IV). De kracht van de plaat is dat de rust en kalmte ook voor de opbouw van de nummers geldt zonder dat het ten koste gaat van de spanning. Luister bijvoorbeeld naar het meer dan elf minuten durende ‘Burnt Offerings’, het door (terughoudende) percussie opgestuwde ‘Veldt Hypnosis’ of naar ‘Seven Coronas’ die het lekker wegdromende gevoel weet te creëren. Minder wordt het wanneer Forrest Fang te lang leunt op één stijl. Het laatste officiële nummer ’Lines To Infinity’ en de daaropvolgende drie bonus tracks zijn daar het voorbeeld van. -Ron Schoonwater
From Warren Ellis
Letters To The Farthest Star is an ambitious and deeply personal dispatch: a far-reaching sojourn into the diverse ambient/electronic influences that helped shape the last three decades of Fang’s unique “Fourth World” style. Like messages from a universe without geographic borders, these pieces shift from dark, organic ambient passages to emotional, melodic interludes.
Warren Ellis is the award-winning writer of graphic novels including TRANSMETROPOLITAN, FELL, INJECTION, MINISTRY OF SPACE, TREES and PLANETARY, and the author of the Amazon Top 100 book NORMAL, the NYT-bestselling GUN MACHINE and the “underground classic” novel CROOKED LITTLE VEIN.
Richard Gurtler –
As usual for this Chinese-American master of electro-acoustic world/ambient soundsculpting, it’s almost impossible to list all the instruments he uses during the recording sessions in his Hangar studio in Berkeley. This inventory is as much broad as it is exotically-fragranced and it’s quite obvious that I won’t be able to exactly recognize them in each particular composition. But what I am 100% sure is that Forrest Fang virtuosically utilizes every single instrument in his hands with his innate mastery and passion. Spellbindingly rewarding journey from 2012 entitled “Animism” still deeply resonates, so I am absolutely thrilled to explore “Letters To The Farthest Star”, Forrest Fang’s latest album released at the beginning of March 2015 on Projekt in traditional 4-panel eco wallet packaging with stunning cover and inside images by Polish photographer Maciej Koniuszy and designed by Sam Rosenthal. The mastering job is again handled at Soundscape by renowned Robert Rich. The newest album comes in limited edition of 300 copies.
The album unfolds with 18-minute four part suite, gorgeously entitled “The Unreachable Lands”. Shorter “Sunsail” provides the opening with its soothingly expansive driftscape, which smoothly overlaps to the next part, “Song Of The Camel”. An array of richly perfumed stringed instruments is intriguingly amalgamated with vivacious drumming, the result is a truly euphoric, rhythm-driven multi-cultural sonic tapestry with the signature that can only be Forrest Fang. Ultra deep drone bliss announces “Water Village”, counterpointed here and there with emerging trenchant outbursts, before ephemerally transmuting through contemplative gamelan-like tinkles into hauntingly melodious blend of Eastern Asia, violin-infused flourishes and mesmerically spiraling rhythm patterns. The interaction of evocative stringed essences with relaxing downtempos is just amazing on this composition and as much spectacular as the transition from calmly sunrising horizons to vital daylight waterscapes. “Hermitage” reveals with enigmatically helixing drones, but soon utterly expressive duet of piano and violin steals the journey, while ethereal electric guitar mastery by Jeff Pearce rides atop. Yes, “The Unreachable Lands” have never been closer!!! The next composition, “Burnt Offerings”, with 11 and half minutes the longest piece on album, serenely glides and slowly expands, before exotic strings, maybe those of cumbus, sneak in along with ear-tickling tribal drumming. The closing 4 minutes jaw-droppingly slip into magnificently panoramic, ultra profound dronescaping sceneries, continuously permeated by intangibly whizzing subtleties and exquisitely evocative strings of Japanese palm harp. But I firstly thought these are baglama-like strings. Anyway, this is Forrest Fang at the very top of his craft, demonstrating his musical intelligence and ingeniousness, to me, a Hall of Fame composition!!! Bravo, Forrest!!! The opening passage of 8-minute “Veldt Hypnosis” is strongly contemplative with its tinkling sounds merged with organics and distant sinuous embroideries, but then the composition quickly turns into lushly scented polyrhythmic scenario sounding quite twisted, nearly cacophonous and freaky, before evanescing through more comfortable zones, merging meditative delicacies with bizarrely hypnotic dreamscapes. The following piece, “Fossils”, immediately hooks the ear with its soothingly gossamer mood, bridged with field recordings evoking uniquely processed duck quacks and later reinforced by intensely expressive, slightly reverberating sounds of, most likely, some out of tune piano. A quite extraordinary, fully rewarding soundsculpture!!! On “Seven Coronas” ephemeral native American flute calls interact with fragile tinkles, but soon deeply poignant cinematic wistfulness of violin captures the lead along with remote dronescapes, which are persistently permeated by mesmerizing gamelan delicacies. Flute rejoins towards the end with its nuanced growls and barks. A true elixir for my ears, feel all the magic of beyond the ordinary sonic exploration!!! Hats off to the Maestro!!! “Lorenz” delves into intriguingly desolate subterranean terrains, augmented by perplexingly ear-piercing and peculiarly undulating drone transcendence. The closing track, 10 and half minute long “Lines To Infinity” shifts into gorgeously immense celestial domains, when utilizing dimmed electric mandolin mastery along with graciously eternal driftscapes.
“Letters To The Farthest Star” meticulously blend a potpourri of Middle and Far East musical traditions with Western-infused atmospheric splendor, always thrillingly multifarious with filigree trademarking touch, yet exquisitely amalgamated and focused. Forrest Fang, one of the world’s most creative electro-acoustic sound explorers did it again!!! Immerse deeply into these fascinatingly perfumed regions and experience these magically transporting letters. Forrest Fang is one of our most unique guides on these journeys for three decades. We all must be really grateful for his sonic visions!!! Thank you, Forrest!!! And by the way, if you prefer digital version of “Letters To The Farthest Star”, you will get three bonus tracks, two of them are ambient remixes while the third is an ambient deconstruction of selected three album tracks, so you can add to your 69-minute trip another about 24 minutes. In any case, “Letters To The Farthest Star” album is one of the indisputable pinnacles of 2015!!!
Richard Gürtler (Sep 05, 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia)
Reviews Editor –
Ambizioso come non mai il progetto giapponese Forrest Fang, nato nei lontani anni ’80, che prosegue il suo personale discorso all’interno dell’ambient music con un lavoro che unisce ancora una volta elettronica e strumentazione. L’approccio compositivo mantiene intatto lo stampo primigenio della scena minimal americana (La Monte Young, Terry Riley), basata su cascate sonore e flussi di tonalità continue che creano un ipnotico e sconfinato mare audio, solo variato dall’uso di distese sintetiche che ricordano in parte le ultime composizioni di Steve Roach. Le tele vengono poi dipinte con una pluralità sterminata di strumenti classici (violino, mandolino, chitarra) e soprattutto etnici: mezzi ideali per trasportare l’ascoltatore in luoghi lontani, verso un oriente che non vive di cenni sonori campionati ma di melodie reali e suoni palpabili. Il risultato è una collezione di dieci audio-cartoline che fotografano il lato più tenue e mistico di un mondo sognato nella sua tangibile bellezza. In parte legato alla scena ambient, in parte alla world music, Letters To The Farthest Star rientra in un discorso artistico personale in cui la spinta verso l’immaginario procede di pari passo con la necessità di esprimere l’infinito. Interpretabile da un lato come un documentario dell’anima e dall’altro come un antidoto per depurare la mente, l’album è un trionfo di spiritualità caleidoscopica in cui la pioggia di profumi e iridescenze stordisce fino ad annullare piacevolmente l’ascoltatore in un oceano di pace. Chi già conosce questo autore troverà nell’album un appagamento totale alle proprie aspettative; tutti gli altri sono invitati a scoprire questa incredibile oasi di tranquillità. Rating: 7.5 -Michele Viali
Reviews Editor –
From Comarcas Na Rede
El violinista chino estadounidense Forrest Fang, a través del sello Projekt, nos vuelve a introducir en su mundo ambient con un trabajo dónde la música vuelve a profundizar en el fondo de nuestro ser y de nuestra conciencia.
La música ambient siempre ha tenido la característica de pasar inadvertida para la gran mayoría, pero para los amantes de la música, siempre ha estado ahí cómo la expresión de su sentimiento y no sólo para pasar desapercibida.
Forrest Fang, en este trabajo, nos vuelve a mostrar su maestría en la creación de composiciones dentro de estilo musical convirtiéndose en toda una referencia, así que nada mejor, que cerrar los ojos y disfrutar de la profundidad de su música.
Reviews Editor –
From Sounds Behind the Corner
Ci sono le sue radici dietro il suono, mentre si alza il sipario sull’ennesima, invitante, opera del musicista d’origine cinese, capace di dare un pizzico intrigante di profonda Asia grazie al pizzico gentile del suo violino, gatto mansueto che miagola con amabilità sospeso nell’ambient sci-fi del suono espresso dall’orchestrazione: ricca, scrupolosa, morbidissima.
New-age ed ambient, un piccolo accenno di chillout in midtempo e la musica di Forrest Fang ancora una volta si permea d’estasi, rilassante soluzione contro la perfidia dell’orologio, un angolo di paradiso terreno all’ombra di skyline roventi, ombre immote nelle notti americane o sagome di foreste intense, immense.
Note di smeraldo e di blu acquamarina: l’ambient di Forrest Fang ancora una volta corteggia il filone americano tra lo sci-fi e la determinazione elementale; poco fuoco, tanta acqua, un refolo d’aria smosso dal crine che lavora con leziosa cura le corde, perfetto dialogo minimalista tra musicista e natura, contemplazione della quiete perenne, soundscape da cartolina del vespro nascente, suoni adatti al cinema ma di qualità.
Le strutture sono proprie del minimalismo, qui più cha mai: Letters To The Farthest Star è la sinfonia in dieci movimenti dell’estasi, donando alla percezione del paesaggio la delicatezza di note serene, piccoli loop strumentali senza l’ossessione ed il timore della notte che dal blu, passa al cupo sino al nero, ed in quel nero le stelle, lontane amiche di poeti e musici, per questo fortemente amanti della solitudine, dell’incanto.
Nei primi quattro movimenti lo stallo, le sospensioni acustiche: sono le stelle stesse, sono la stessa notte; un brivido ed un’estasi senza voler dare freddo al suono, solo l’inerzia della luce, lattescente, riflessa su acque buie, specchi inconsapevoli di un’anima in sereno ed assorto componimento, dando ad essa, piccoli ritmi mai scomposti, mai fuori dal tempo deciso, un andamento lento non patetico.
“Song Of The Camel”, in particolare, è la piccola influenza che una fusion colta riesce ad imprimere alla ricerca non banalizzata.
Splendida “Fossils”: più che altrove il suono, l’influenza globale, rendono forme dalle regolarità solo leggermente instabili, acquosi suoni di un torrente ora placido, come prima di una rapida quando l’acqua rallenta e si accumula; la musica ne ha i colori, azzurri e bianchi, frizzante nel moto mai agitato, contemplazione di un rapimento interiore che si crea nel momento in cui lo si recepisce, permettendogli di entrare dentro. Rating: 8/10 -Nicola Tenani
Reviews Editor –
From Nieuwe Noten
De multi-instrumentalist en componist Forrest Fang, woonachtig in de omgeving van San Francisco is een veelzijdig man. Zijn wortels liggen in de eclectische progressieve muziekwereld van de jaren ’70. Na elektronica gestudeerd te hebben bij Tom Hamilton en Roland Jordan aan de Washington University in St. Louis, stortte Fang zich op de niet-Westerse muziek. Hij studeerde Chinese klassieke muziek bij de zheng (Chinese citer) speler Zhang Yan , gagaku (de oude hofmuziek uit Japan) bij de voormalige hofmusicus Suenobu Togi en gamelan bij de Balinese componist I Wayan Sujana.
In zijn albums integreert Fang dan ook al deze achtergronden op een heel natuurlijke wijze. Getuige ook zijn laatste kunstwerk Letters To The Farthest Star.
Zelf zegt hij over dit album: “Letters represents my style boiled to its essence. These tracks represent my musical past and present. I love variety, so I’m expressing different moods and styles in these pieces. They are both light and dark, often simultaneously, while being serious, intense, quiet or more spirited elsewhere. Some pieces are compact and to the point while others are more expansive and immersive.”
In de suite waar deze CD mee start, het vierdelige ‘The Unreachable Lands’, leidt deze eclectische aanpak tot een kleurrijke synthese van klanken. De basis is meditatieve, hypnotiserende ambient maar door de toevoeging van, met name Aziatische snaarinstrumenten, zet Fang een indrukwekkende klankwereld neer. Luister bijvoorbeeld naar deel 2 van deze suite ‘Song Of The Camel’. Fang weet heel beeldend de sfeer neer te zetten die de titel van dit nummer oproept: een uitgestrekte woestijn, de allesverzengende hitte, kamelen, het ritme dat daar bij past.
In het eerste deel van ‘Burnt Offerings’ gebruikt Fang de klank van een cümbüs, een Turks snaarinstrument, voor de repeterende melodie die hij laat ontstijgen uit het met behulp van elektronica neergelegd ambient patroon. In het tweede deel van dit nummer doet hij hetzelfde maar dan met de klaterende klanken van een Japanse harp. In beide gevallen levert het een hallucinerend effect op. ‘Seven Coronas’ biedt een even welluidende, beeldende als hypnotiserende vioolmelodie in combinatie met een subtiel ambient patroon, de luisteraar in Oosterse sferen brengend. ‘Lines To Infinity’ tenslotte is een breed uitgesponnen stuk. IJl en transcendent, maar tegelijkertijd beschikkend over een zekere intensiteit. Stuwend en pulserend brengt Fang ons naar het einde van dit wonderlijke album.
De download versie van dit album bevat nog 3 extra remixes. Voor meer informatie kijk op Bandcamp of op de site van Projekt. -Ben Taffijn
Reviews Editor –
From Ambient Blog
With over 90 minutes (including the three bonus tracks), this is an exceptionally long album release. But Forrest Fang brings a lot of musical history, and combines a lot of different background influences into the Fourth World music of his 13th release. It almost feels like a trip around the world, even more because “Fang’s sound is anchored by an Asian sensibility that reflects his fondness for stringed and percussion instrument from China, Indonesia and Turkey.”
Besides creating electronic music, Fang studied violin and classical composition, but also Chinese classical music on the gu-zheng (zither), Balinese Gamelan and gagaku (Japanese court music). He manages to melt the ‘exotic musical influences of his past and present’ it together into a very fresh and personal style that defies simple genre definitions. A style that has power to appeal to many many listeners!
Reviews Editor –
Album of the Month, April 2015!
As Forrest Fang has been releasing albums steadily since 1980 (by Discogs’ count, twelve, included among them his latest as well as a collaboration with Carl Weingarten), I would hardly consider myself qualified to make some general statement about his entire output, even though I have reviewed three of his recent releases (one of them under his Sans Serif alias). I mention this by way of preamble because, even though I stand by that statement, his latest full-length, Letters to the Farthest Star, strikes me as so definitive a portrait, it’s hard to resist thinking of it as an artistic peak of some kind, especially when it so powerfully fuses the electronic and acoustic into a single compelling statement.
Fang’s ‘Fourth World’ music stands out from the ambient-electronic crowd in the way it extends the electronic side of his music into other spheres. Hints of classical minimalism can be detected as well as echoes of a progressive rock outfit such as Jade Warrior, but it’s the presence of traditional non-Western sounds within his productions that really sets Fang apart. Elements of Javanese gamelan and Chinese folk music are woven into his pieces, and the rich soundworld presented on Letters to the Farthest Star, which Fang recorded over a two-year period, includes everything from hichiriki (Japanese double-reed instrument) and gu-zheng (Chinese zither) to baglama (small Turkish lute) and bandurria (Peruvian stringed instrument). String and percussion instruments originating from China, Japan, Indonesia, and Turkey lend the recording a panoramic feel, and to say that the list of instruments Fang is credited with on the album is impressive is understating it.
The album begins with a transporting, nineteen-minute suite titled The Unreachable Lands, which undertakes a global excursion in four parts. Populated by lutes, drums, zithers, violin, electronics, and guitar (the latter courtesy of Jeff Pearce, who contributes lustrous textures to the peaceful fourth part “Hermitage”), Fang’s resplendent material undergoes dramatic shifts of mood from one section to the next, such that the carefree spirit that infuses “Song of the Camel” is darkened by the exotic mysteries of “Water Village.” As exotic is the hypnotic, raga-styled “Burnt Offerings,” which peppers its ethereal ambient base with the sounds of a cumbus (Turkish stringed instrument), Japanese palm harp, and percussion.
Elsewhere, Fang individualizes a deep ambient meditation such as “Fossils” with unusual instrumental touches, in this case something resembling a dusty, out-of-tune piano, and then soothes the listener with lyrical violin melodies and delicate gamelan patterns in “Seven Coronas.” Following the New Age-styled “Lorenz,” the album concludes with “Lines To Infinity,” an immersive kosmische-styled setting that sees Fang transforming layers of processed electronic mandolins into synthetic breezes. An encompassing, seventy-minute portrait, Letters to the Farthest Star plays like a summation of sorts. It might even be Fang’s grandest achievement, though, as stated earlier, in order to make such a determination one would need to be familiar with all of his work.
Reviews Editor –
Letters to the Farthest Star is an audio documentary looking at the sources of Forrest Fang’s musical inspirations and following the waterway of his career. I use the word waterways because whenever I listen to Fang’s music I find that I feel like I am being taken by boat along the river in some exotic landscape—humid and overgrown, shrouded in tree leaves that dangle over slowly moving water—and that I am headed for someplace that is somehow more honest and genuine, a village, a place that still rings with the sound of folk songs and their stories and their truth. It comes from the way in which Fang has embraced the simplicity of old-world instrumentation and makes it not just an accent to an electronic album, but really quite the other way around. We make music first with our hands and our breath and our soul, and that is what is at the core of Forrest Fang’s work. Letters… is rich with eastern strings, along with their western cousins. Violin and mandolin cross paths with the Chinese gu-zhang and Turkish cümbüş, and the sound overall is organic and intense.
The four-piece suite, “The Unreachable Lands,” which opens the disc, would be worth the price of admission alone. Fang modulates the ride wonderfully here. The first part, “Sunsail,” is a big, string-driven thing with forceful rhythms that pulse into you. “Song of the Camel” dials it back to an ambient hush that glides past and gives way to the folk-inspired “Water Village.” There’s an exuberance to it, brought in by a bright, singing string melody, and it picks up a cool walking undercurrent on a bassline that gives it a pleasant stride. It’s the bustle of a working village, the moving and weaving and being in the moment. Sonic imagery at its finest. “Hermitage” reminds me of Tim Story’s ambient chamber work. Piano takes the lead, backed in misty washes and a quiet assist from guitarist Jeff Pearce. At this juncture the disc is less than halfway done, but trust me—it will own you by this point. And it continues to engage. “Burnt Offerings,” it will not surprise you to learn, is the disc’s foray into a darker space. This is where the cümbüş takes the front. For an instrument whose name translates to “fun,” it delivers a truly somber feel at first, notes picking slowly across an ambient wash. This track blossoms out, picking up pace and turning into a dance with a touch of ritual at the edges. Fang cuts it off in favor of an ambient flow while the drama of that dance is still coursing in your veins. “Fossils” works like a minimalist piece, with chord pulses on a stringed instrument reverberating into harmonic drones. The violin that leads the way on “Seven Coronas” has a beauty that has quite literally stopped me in my tracks. There have been moments in my repeated review listens where I have the album on and this sound arises, and I just stop whatever I’m doing to give it my full, soul-level attention. It’s stunning.
Letters to the Farthest Star is one of those releases that almost seem pointless to write about. Its beauty and masterful construction are apparent from the first moments, and from there is hold is pleasantly unrelenting. It is deeply layered, filled with small sounds and moments, and has the ability to leave listeners breathless more than once. The balance of organic and electric is perfectly nudged over in favor of the organic, and that informs the piece’s overall truth. This is Forrest Fang taking stock of his career and inviting us to listen as he does. Lush, exotic, enthralling, and an absolute must-own release.
Reviews Editor –
From Synth & Sequences
Although very far from the style of usual ambient music, the music of Forrest Fang wears a unique cachet with this fusion of ambient Folk to perfumes of East. As much comfortable with a range of oriental acoustic instruments (on “The Unreachable Lands” Turkish Lute, the Chinese violins and the Indonesian percussions dominate the atmospheres, the rhythms and harmonies) that with electronic instruments, the Sino- American musician and synthesist like to draw these breezes and these winds from synths in order to weave harmonious landscapes which give some more of colors, more reliefs in an ambient music delicately shaken by surrounding areas of ballad anchored in the American Folk song. The outcome is always rather attractive. Split into two parts, Letters to the Farthest Star remains a meditative and melancholic album. If the “The Unreachable Lands” proposes rhythms of World Music into paralyzing atmospheres which are punctuated with harmonious and lively interludes, the rest of the album plunges us into the somber universe of Forrest Fang where the dark moods swallow rhythms as much evanescent as the melodies which decorate them. In the end, it gives a poetic album where both poles of Forrest Fang get mix without ever really merging.
It begins quietly. A wave of winds rises to sweep the horizons of iridescent colors where the singings of a brilliant blue get lost in muffled and somber reverberations. The quadrilogy of “The Unreachable Lands” unties its first part with the notes of a pensive guitar which gets out from the winds of “Unsail”. Forrest Fang leads us from then on towards a slow rhythm. Towards the ballad of a Bayou kind of “Song of the Camel”. We roll of the neck. It’s delicately lively. The percussions shape a delicate movement of spiritual trance while the line of bass sculptures a kind of blues very tribal and while the flutes release festive harmonies coated by a perfume of East. This is very appealing and the ambient remix version is even better enticing. The somber winds return to decorate the atmospheres of “Water Village” of an opaque sibylline veil. The first two minutes are dark. They are the sober prelude to a structure of rhythm as much pleasant and lascivious as the one in “Song of the Camel”, the bass line on it is lasciviously lively, and that a Chinese violin covers of an ambient shroud. This is pure ambient Folk a la Loggins&Messina. It’s the reference point which comes to mind like that and which I find rather relevant. Moreover the music of Forrest Fang is a sublime mixture of American and oriental Folk that perfumes of EM embalm of a comforting meditative aura. “Hermitage” concludes the saga “The Unreachable Lands” with a pensive approach where the violin, one would say an harmonica, cries in the sobs of a piano. It’s soft and very melancholic. It’s also the small thread which leads us to the other hillside of Letters to the Farthest Star.
“Burnt Offerings” exchanges its introduction, knotted in hollow winds, for a rhythm always so slow and folk. It’s end to be an ambient ballad which gets lost in the winds of its intro and splits up its acoustic notes in the turbulence of the synthesized winds. “Veldt Hypnosis” brings us in territories a little more electronic of Forrest Fang. A thick cloud of synth waves with rippling lines and sibylline chants forge a strange ambient melody of which the spectral singing shakes ropes filled of bells. The rhythm which hatch comes from two lines of percussions. One is fluid with lively knocks which sculpture the electronic walking of a millipede with castanets instead of feet. And the other one is heavy and loud with thunders of drumming which forge a furious and noisy mood. Both lines reduce in a state of almost absence a delicate melody drawn from the multiple bells. A melody which pierces this thunderstorm of tom-toms, of which only the fluid and lively knocks knew how to resist the wear of the 8 minutes of “Veldt Hypnosis”. The effect in a living-room is simply staggering. The atmospheres are heavy and always threatening, as in the very ambient “Fossils” and its notes of a six-strings which look for its harmonies in the winds howlers. A discreet line of sequenced drumming sculptures the ambient rhythm of “Seven Coronas” which ascents a very meditative landscapes with tears of violins which flow on the harmonies of the carillons. It’s sad and the violin is rather poignant. “Lorenz” proposes a night of falling stars of which the wakes in the black firmament weave some harmonies mislaid in dark and dense winds as much black than hollow. We are in an ambient mood, dark and very wrapping such as the glove of a black night. And it’s even truer with “Lines to Infinity” and its notes of guitar which scratch a melody which is always looks for its shape in a thick strata of synth in colors as dark as these long passages through caves without lights of the American deserts. We are entitled to 3 tracks in bonus if we buy the downloadable version of “Letters to the Farthest Star”. And I have to say that it’s not just of filling. The ambient remix version of “Water Village” is very good. The feeling of being in the Californian deserts at the time of the cowboys is much more present here with a clearly more lascivious rhythm. We perceive even better the very discreet harmonies of the harmonica here and that gives to the track a beautiful approach of lugubrious, almost apocalyptic Western mood. I also prefer better this version of “Burnt Offerings” where everything is far better nuanced, in particular the play of the percussions which are heavier and more detailed. We dive literally into the works of Steve Roach’s Californian deserts. Very good! On the other hand, I prefer the original version of “Song of the Camel”. Here, in its demolition version, we have difficulty in finding its essence.
I quite enjoyed Letters to the Farthest Star. I know it’s different from the Berlin School and the sequence based style of EM, but it is still very appealing. Forrest Fang is resolutely less arrhythmic there that on Unbound, even that sometimes he shows a good dose of wild violence which sounds like a troop of horses which trample on nests of ants. There are a lot of good atmospheres and fascinating depths, both in the ambient phases and in the rhythm ones. And these short melodious interludes which go and come add some more of charms to an album which nevertheless asks for a good dose of curiosity to those who don’t know Fang or are simply not interested in the genre. For the others, you are going to adore. But in any case; like it or not, knowing him or not, Forrest Fang’s discovery should stay in your schedule of exploring the ambient form of EM. After all, he is this delicate link between the worlds of Steve Roach and Robert Rich. -Sylvain Lupari
Reviews Editor –
Since the early 80s, Forrest Fang has been creating his own special brand of music that draws instrumentation from around the world to create something unique, different, and pan-cultural – a sound that doesn’t necessarily owe anything to the cultures from which the instruments are drawn, but is reminiscent of them nonetheless. How can that not happen? One hears a guzheng (Chinese zither), for example, and the listener will immediately recall soundtracks from television and films where similar instruments were used, and thus the images form.
This is the magical soundworld that Forrest Fang calls home, a place where moods and expression seize fragments of shadow and light, mixing these together with a veritable smorgasbord of world instrumentation which includes synthesizers, electronics, bandurria, mandolin, violin, lauta, hichiriki, cumbus, baglama, Indonesian kendang and saron, Japanese palm harp, and much more, mostly drawn from eastern and western Asian cultures. Mixed in with these are the ambient sounds created using electronics and studio processing; the result is a powerful and potent cinematic mix of sounds that draws the mind from place to place, outward and inward as well.
Fang plays all these instruments himself, with a little help from Jeff Pearce on electric guitar. Counting his Invisibility collaboration with Carl Weingarten, this is Fang’s twelfth album, and in fact reflections of all those albums can be heard in this latest work, which starts with the side-long suite “The Unreachable Lands,” followed by six more pieces of varying lengths, each conveying a different feeling, capping off with the ten-minute “Lines to Infinity,” a potent mix of processed electric mandolin integrated with studio delay effects. Intense, spirited, and expansive, this is music like nobody else can make. -Peter Thelen
Reviews Editor –
From Percorsi Musicali
Letters to the Farthest Star è un compendio dedicato all’analisi e alla coscienza dello spirito. Essendo totalmente strumentale sono le tracce dei titoli che simbolicamente guidano l’ascoltatore al raccordo tra musica e pensiero. In questo lavoro c’è un puzzle personale di idee e favoreggiamenti in linea con l’impostazione spirituale dell’uomo moderno, elementi che oramai non hanno più una stretta appartenenza al mondo orientale, nella piena consapevolezza di essere in grado di diluire completamente le regole differenziali delle culture; attraverso la musica è possibile abbattere barriere, e nello specifico, quelle barriere di ordine spirituale che a molti fanno venir paura per la loro impostazione.
“The unreacheables lands” presenta in quattro movimenti il tema centrale, ossia l’importanza del raggiungimento di uno stato spirituale cosciente dell’uomo che dev’essere condiviso con i segnali del mondo planetario e la natura che ci circonda. Ci potrebbe essere collegamento con le esoteriche affermazioni della regina del movimento teosofico, Helena Blavatsky; “Burnt offerings” si riferisce al film del ’76 di Dan Curtis, in cui l’orrore (il dolore) viene messo di fronte ad una sua utilità pratica, quella di contribuire all’ordine divino, alla sua rigenerazione. “Veldt hypnosis” fa riferimento alla novella di Greg Doud, “Runtime Error”, in cui mistero e fantascienza si mischiano con un messaggio aperto sul vero significato della natura dell’Universo. “Lorenz” è un omaggio a Konrad Lorenz, l’uomo amante delle oche e dell’ambiente, che si occupò nella sua vita dei problemi della coscienza grazie all’epistemologia evoluzionistica; “Fossils” e “Lines to infinity” sono i due estremi della storia e della nostra sapienza, riferiti a quello che le capacità umane sono riuscite a scoprire tramite la conoscenza della natura e del cosmo.
Con la consueta assistenza produttiva di Robert Rich, Forrest Fang di fianco al synth usa in Letters to the Farthest Star in funzione psicologica un arsenale di strumenti etnici tradizionali campionati, che fanno capolino nel percorso musicale: gu-zheng, yau kuo, bamboo tube (Cina), hichiriki e palm harp (Giappone), lavta, baglama, cumbus (Turchia), kendang, saron (Java e Bali), bandurria (Perù), càntaro (Mexico), Kenyan lute e glass bowl. Scintille di tanti mondi da cui apprendere per la personalità dei suoni ed un invito al viaggio che si prospetta musicalmente molto meno tenebroso e metafisico di quello che si può pensare, poiché tutto è direzionato nel cogliere, tramite i suoni giusti, un etereo continuum ideologico. -Ettore Garzia
Reviews Editor –
From Sequenzer Welten
…und wiedermal betrete ich mit der Letters To The Farthest Star vom US-Amerikaner mit chinesischer Abstammung, Forrest Fang, musikalisches Neuland.
Gut, ich war nach den ersten Minuten etwas irritiert, was ich da zu hören bekam, aber diese Skepsis legte sich auch schnell wieder. Es waren teilweise ungewohnte, folkloristisch angehauchte Klänge, welche eben auf die Herkunft von Forrest Fang hinweisen. Aber es ist genau dieser Mix aus Ambient und fernöstlichen Elementen, die diese Musik so interessant macht!
Die Musik ist überwiegend ruhiger gehalten, umgeben von einer teils mystischen Atmosphäre, die gelegentlich von sehr schönen Rhythmen aufgelockert wird …… alles hört sich sehr harmonisch und friedlich an. Es kann einem wirklich leicht fallen, sich den Klängen hinzugeben. Wirklich tolle Musik!
Diese Musik von Forrest Fang ist für mich wieder irgendwie typisch: Forrest Fang hat in seiner langen Musikerkarriere schon soviele Alben herausgebracht und ich habe mich einfach nicht an die Musik herangetraut. Manchmal muss man wohl zu seinem Glück gezwungen werden und daher geht mein Dank an das Team um Sam Rosenthals Label https://www.projekt.com. -Uwe Sasse
Reviews Editor –
From Music TAP
Forrest Fang is a multi-instrumentalist who has experimented with applications of traditional instruments like the violin, piano, guitars, and other, more exotic and classical instruments against backdrops of electronics to create waves of ambient textures. With over 30 years of music, found on over ten stunning albums that complete his solo efforts (thus far), and a multitude of appearances on other artists’ works, Forrest Fang has created a rich body of intriguing sound.
On March 3, Forrest Fang released a new richly-textured album in his latest offering, Letters To The Farthest Star. The new album is a variety of ambient explorations that are immediately respectful of cultural musical diversity. The songs on this beautiful set travel through a brilliant spheres of places, some filled with familiar influence (“Water Village”, part III from the opening suite, “The Unreachable Lands”), and beauty (“Seven Coronas”). But there is no light without darkness. Forrest Fang has equally stepped out into the furious frights of our being with pieces like “Fossils”, and “Lorenz”.
The music heard here is both fearless and compelling. Forrest Fang is an artist in the highest sense that is able to merge his classical skills with the swirling textures of electronic music to produce a classic. Letters To The Farthest Star is a brilliant collection of nearly 70 minutes of music with which to stir our souls with. -MARowe
Reviews Editor –
From Bert Strolenberg
One of the great things about the music of the skilled composer Forrest Fang is his ability to incorporate world music influences from Asia (focusing on stringed and percussion instruments most notably) with mesmerizing electronic textures into his ambient minimalist style in a most sophisticated and fluent manner.
On Letters To the Farthest Star, the exotic instrumental outcome again turns up the highly cinematic lane, creating expansive and intriguing moodscapes that address both light and dark. In addition, Fang’s expertly molded sonic dwellings are very moving and full of emotion, even elevating the mind occasionally (as on e.g. “The Unreachable Lands IV” and “Seven Coronas”).
I have an even weaker spot for two longer (10-minute) pieces on the album, “Burnt Offerings” and “Lines to Infinity”, which air a lovely transcendental mood and feel to immerse into. Overall, the abstract interior spaces, spiritual sound worlds and profound sonic meditations explored here are a must for headphone listening. Very well accomplished, Mr. Fang!
P.S. Those who get the digital download of Letters To the Farthest Star also receive three bonus ambient remix tracks.