FORREST FANG: Letters to the Farthest Star (2015)
Updated: Sep 29, 2020
“Letters to the Farthest Star is very poetic, very intrusive and a nice ambient Folk album whith perfumes of the West and the East battling in dark soundsapes”
1 The Unreachable Lands I Sunsail 2:01
2 The Unreachable Lands II Song of the Camel 3:45
3 The Unreachable Lands III Water Village 6:55
4 The Unreachable Lands IV Hermitage 5:58
5 Burnt Offerings 11:30
6 Veldt Hypnosis 8:02
7 Fossils 6:14
8 Seven Coronas 7:19
9 Lorenz 6:30
10 Lines to Infinity 10:33
11 Water Village (ambient remix) 8:09
12 Burnt Offerings (ambient remix) 9:38
13 Song of the Camel (ambient deconstruction) 6:28
(CD/DDL 133:14) (V.F.)
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 Forest Fang get mix without ever merging really.
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 The Unreachable Lands saga with a pensive approach where the violin, one would say a 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 trades 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 Forest 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 wind's 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 the album. 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's 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.
Sylvain Lupari (March 19th, 2015) ***½**
Available at Projekt Records Bandcamp