Forrest Fang's Sans Serif: Unbound

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.

May 2011