Gongland by Forrest Fang Projekt records, 2000 http://www.projekt.com Forrest Fang is a Chinese-American musician who brings his expertise with various Oriental modes and instruments to the realm of electronic music. He mixes this timeless Asian material with state-of-the-art technology, including the use of fractal mathematics to shape his tones, rhythms, and melodies. Gongland follows along the same lines as his 1999 album The Blind Messenger, but it is much more explicitly Asian-inspired than Messenger. Fang depends throughout on the pentatonic tuning which is so characteristically Far Eastern, though he also intersperses moments of Western melodic scales and arpeggios. In many of the pieces, Fang uses the cascading metallic sounds of the Indonesian gamelan. This is a more conservative album than Blind Messenger. There are no noisy aggressive forays into techno-industrial sound, no heavy drumming, and the pace is slower than that of the previous album. The moments that stand out in Gongland tend to be beautiful and delicate rather than loud and powerful. Among the best tracks, characterized (like subatomic quarks!) with “charm” and “strangeness” are track 4, “Chaos Gamelan,” track 9, the sparkling “Microna,” and the Java-driven track 8, “Sonosphere,” which in its extended length and complexity is my favorite piece on the album. Gongland also features some very slow, nocturnal meditations such as track 5, “4 AM,” track 10, “Tiger Balm,” and the longer track 11, “Sierpinski Plain” (named after a famous mathematician who dealt in fractals). In general this is a subtle, contemplative set, imbued with a philosophical and abstract quality. Sometimes, because of Fang’s reliance on mathematical formulas to generate many of his melodies and rhythms, it can be a bit too abstract, and I feel that it loses some inventiveness and spontaneity because of this. This album is refined, thoughtful, and elegant, but I miss Forrest Fang’s explorations of the jagged electronic edge. HMGS rating: 7 out of 10 12/9/00
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