i. Five-Mile Crater
ii. Koch’s Veil
iii. A Meeting of Totems
iv. The Pulse of the Stars
8. The Great Migration
9. Waning Crescent
January 18: John Diliberto of Echoes Radio asks in a tweet “Is Forrest Fang one of the most original ambient artists around? The answer is yes. Find out why when we hear from his new album, Scenes from a Ghost Train.”
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Spanning sixteen solo albums over three decades, Forrest Fang’s electronic creations are a surrealist blend of processed ethnic instruments and minimalist, ambient soundscapes. He combines these elements “into a fusion that resists the stereotype of the term,” KQED’s Ned Raggett writes. “Fang’s work creates an enveloping flow of rich sound and understated experimentation. It doesn’t sound like one specific style, nor a mix of them all at once — but something distinctly his own.”
Exposé Magazine adds, “The shimmering textures are created via walls of processed acoustic sounds with synthesizers supporting, with or without percussion, and then often the melody instruments emerge out of this fog, first subtly and then boldly, carrying each piece forward. At certain points the textures may subside and expose the melodic content to a greater degree as a way of achieving a more powerful dynamic. Melodies within the mist tend to be minimalist and somewhat cyclical in nature, garnering a strong and evident emotional content that is at once fresh, pervasive and dreamlike, much like a weightless walk through an limitless garden.”
Fang’s latest Projekt release, Scenes from a Ghost Train, finds its inspiration in the phantom train of urban folklore that appears and disappears without a trace. “For me,” Fang reflects, “the ghost train is a projection of the human imagination that merges fantastical ideas, thoughts and mental images with the physical environment to create its own alternate space, much like I what try to realize in my own music.”
The album opens with a four-part eponymous suite. “Five-Mile Crater” begins with a percolating rhythm derived from the sound of a stalactite that is soon complemented by a celestial bed of warm choral tones and abstract sounds. The atmospheric “Koch’s Veil” follows, juxtaposing a contemplative piano with long, sustained string tones. The final two tracks of the suite, “A Meeting of Totems” and “The Pulse of the Stars”, reflect Fang’s distinctive and polyrhythmic ethno-ambient style and feature the woodwinds of Dave Newhouse of the well-known progressive band, The Muffins, as well as Fang’s expressive violin.
The mysterious resonating tones of “Nocturum” provide a brief ambient interlude before proceeding to “Freefall,” a gamelan-influenced piece featuring the processed sound of a Javanese metallophone, the saron. The peaceful and reflective drift of Fang’s ten-minute ambient piece “Enfolding” follows. The contemplative mood continues with “The Great Migration,” a piece of subtle power that builds gradually through layered and intertwined synthesizers, plucked strings and saron. The ghost train brings us back to earth with “Waning Crescent,” a vapor trail of electronic tones and the familiar sound of an electric piano.
The engulfing electronic elements and ethnic instruments paint a unique landscape for listeners to lose themselves in and explore. Scenes from a Ghost Train is a phantasmic world where thoughts and visions from interior and exterior worlds converge.
Limited edition of 500
Artwork by Marcel Caram, flickr page
Release Date: January 30 2018
Reviews Editor –
From Music TAP
For well over 3 decades, Forrest Fang has created sound journeys, each as different as the landscape imagery they invoke. That’s an impressive commitment to not only his own sense of atmospheric creativity, but also to dedicated fans accumulated throughout his sixteen albums. With his latest release from Projekt Records, Scenes from a Ghost Train, Forrest Fang opts to take listeners on a cross-universe ride in a train that exists only within you.
This nine-track escape includes a four-piece title track departure that starts at a “Five-Mile Crater”, visits “Koch’s Veil”, participates in ” A Meeting of Totems”, and ends in “The Pulse of The Stars”. Add in a twenty-minute aurally-induced display of “The Great Migration”, and four more pieces, Scenes From A Ghost Train becomes more than an ambient album, it becomes a self-creating painting of continual brush strokes of imagination.
Everything has a sound of the universe in the background. Call it unsettling or rapturous, the choice is yours. But it sets a tone for the soundtrack of travel that is beautifully augmented by the musical skills of Forrest Fang’s toolbox of various instruments. “A Meeting of Totems” become an earthly tribal experience, while its transitioning follow, “The Pulse of Stars” moves to a wider expanse of majesty.
Works by Forrest Fang are easily notable experiences in vast and completely uncharted cerebral landscapes. It’s difficult to assign the word ‘favorite’ among any of them. -M. Rowe
Reviews Editor –
From Synth & Sequences
The title says it all! One would put in images the ambiences of Scenes From A Ghost Train that the music would complete this connection between the eyes, the brain and the ears which are opened on a world of imagination. Divided in 2 times and in 2 tints, this last Forrest Fang’s album proposes an ambiospherical vision more dominant than the rhythms which, under the colors of the iguana, lift these landscapes with tonal colors as charming as intriguing.
A very welcoming foretaste which turns up between our ears as soon as the opening of “Scenes from a Ghost Train – I. Five-Mile Crater”. A breeze whispers in our ears whereas synth lines spread colors and voices which awaken a delicate rhythm set on two juxtaposed lines; one of percussions and another one of sequences. Sequences and little tom-toms dance in this heavy sound framework of which the opacity and the more and more enveloping effects quiet down a sequence of rhythm which little by little fades away just before these elements of ambiences. Built on 4 parts, each independent from the others, this sonic roman-fleuve of Scenes From A Ghost Train continues with a bath of mysticism from where emerges a very pensive piano. The atmospheres, always very enveloping, of “Scenes from a Ghost Train – II. Koch’s Veil” are weaved in layers of voices and in a musical mist where the breaths of flute play with the understanding of our ears. “Scenes from a Ghost Train – III. A Meeting of Totems” comes to wake these odd vibes with a nice structure of rhythm created on tribal percussions which dance in a sound veil weaved in complexity. In fact, one of the charms of these 4 acts is this sound texture which is undefinable, so much there is convergence of elements and where float multi-lines of synth to colors sometimes bright and often dark. This architecture of the soundscapes gives a dimension which suits well to a story embroidered around this ghost train. Less livened up, but just as much sculpted in ambient rhythm, “Scenes from a Ghost Train – IV. The Pulse of the Stars” brings a kind of cacophony of tones which is inspired by its title. Afterward, we fall in the phases of ambiences and of tranquility of Scenes From A Ghost Train, exception made of the nervous “Freefall” which also shakes and stirs in a dense magma of sounds. “Nocturnum” is a linear structure weaved around a meshing of hummings, of voices and of hollow breezes which float among seraphic elements. Cradling itself in a state of contemplative ecstasy, “Enfolding” is for relaxation. “The Great Migration” is another title which would lend itself very well in big movements of nomadic peoples. The opening is intense and one imagines very well a mass of people to migrate into the unknown and of its uncertainty. That does very Steve Roach at moments, especially near the 14th minute spot when some Indonesian percussions lift up a clearly more musical, even spiritual, rhythm. “Waning Crescent” ends this last opus of the Sino-American musician with an ode to serenity where the percussions sound like smothered gongs in another dense sound décor.
More ambient, with much cinematographic phases, than Forrest Fang’s last opuses, Scenes From A Ghost Train is what I call an album without borders. These some phases of rhythms are equal to these textures which sculpt ambiences from another world which is not nevertheless very far from us … Just behind our imagination which travels according to a music so full of images. -Sylvain Lupari
Reviews Editor –
From Sonic Immersion
Until now, the electronic creations by most talented multi-instrumentalist Forrest Fang have proved a surrealist blend of processed ethnic instruments and minimalist, ambient soundscapes.
Scenes from a Ghost Train finds its inspiration in the phantom train of urban folklore that appears and disappears without a trace. In the composer’s view, the ghost train is a projection of the human imagination that merges fantastical ideas, thoughts and mental images with the physical environment to create its own alternate space, much like Forrest tries to realize in his music.
On this release he succeeded in doing that through a deep, warm and overall spacious canvas of cinematic yet dreamy sounds and rich textures. The album’s fascinating hybrid of influences from the West and East features many string instruments also while the outcome transforms to a more dynamic vehicle when assorted rhythms enter the stage as e.g. displayed on the last two chapters of the title piece.
This said, distinct flavors of gamelan and Indonesia shine through as well more prominently or simmering in the background as the recording progresses. The largest part of the 20-minute “The Great Migration” is a minimalist soundscape ride pulling the listener in with its ethereal, slow evolving and hypnotic aural design. Then the dream settles down gently on the final track “Waning Crescent”, closing the circle of sophisticated reveries. Nice going Forrest. -Bert Strolenberg
Reviews Editor –
From Avant Music News
Forrest Fang falls squarely into the camp of U.S.-based ambient/electronic musicians (also including Steve Roach, Robert Rich, and Michael Stearns among others) who were influenced by the Berlin school, but bring their own unique takes to the genre. Case in point, on the nine tracks of Scenes from a Ghost Train, Fang combines gently layered drones, slow-moving piano themes, and violin, as well as subtle Eastern string, wind, and percussive elements.
Fang alternates between uptempo pieces driven by multi-tracked percussion and more introspective, minimalist approaches. But even in the latter, there is an abundance of individually-evolving themes. Fang’s restlessness shows throughout, as these quieter tracks are anything but simplistic. But he shines the brightest when combining his influences into an amalgam of atmosphere, melody, and ethnic mysticism. Ultimately, the acoustic and the electronic aspects of Scenes from a Ghost Train blend into a seamless continuum. This allows the album to have a broad appeal including to those interested in synth-driven music in general as well as others who seek out rich, detailed soundscapes.
With the prevalence of dark ambient, aggressive electronics, and harsh noise walls (all of which have their own allure), it is nice to hear a new release from one of the originators of the genre that was a forbearer thereto. Established fans will find much to like here, and for others Scenes from a Ghost Train is a great place to begin exploration of Fang’s discography. -Mike
Reviews Editor –
John Diliberto of Echoes Radio asks in a tweet “Is Forrest Fang one of the most original ambient artists around? The answer is yes. Find out why when we hear from his new album, Scenes from a Ghost Train.”