Aptly described as a collection of dust worn, sun baked nostalgia and explorative wonderment, the new album from Forest Robots is every bit as immersive and dreamlike as fans could hope for, and perhaps more conceptually powerful than ever before.
Simple arrangements see intricate details meet with a warmer wash of sounds, almost like instruments being plucked by the shore, as the waves breathe in and out across the sand. This outdoor theme is common in composer Fran’s work, though here it presents itself in a refreshing new way.
There is indeed a somewhat dusty or vintage finish to the production – a classic crackle of time-worn artistry, distant memories and feelings.
From a gentle, breathy opener that is all of the above, the follow-up Of Birds Migrating in the Distance already takes a new route through depth of thought, leading more notably with piano keys and the juxtaposed, mildly manic energy of strings and other familiar details. Fran has always been an artist with the faultless ability to recreate natural phenomena through audio exploration, and this album sees this skill step things up all the more so.
The feel of the music then takes us underwater somehow, clarity is replaced by a unique blending of elements, resulting in a warm fusion of bubbling energy and life (Karst Wildlife Surveying). Still the musicianship is easy to detect, particularly as the end draws in and the effects and cinematic layers fall away.
Elsewhere we get dashes of up-right bass, twinkles of freely wandering, unpredictable melody, hints of rhythm and depth to contrast the lighter tones of the keys. Perhaps melody is the wrong word – these are individual instances of life and movement. Awash In Granite Geometry highlights this use of space and contrast beautifully. When you consider the titles, you do perhaps wonder where and when these memories were formed, and what they entailed. For the most part though, the music is yours to be given whatever meaning or mood you need it to deliver.
From Subtly Widening Bergschrunds through Glacial Architecture Of The Mountain Corridor, the journey takes the mind to somewhere reflective and thoughtful, before opening up into a brighter, rightfully lighter plain. The latter is delightfully colorful, hopeful as it quietly bounces through the room.
Of course, the experience and where your thoughts wander to are set to be unique to each of us. That’s the beauty of Fran’s music. It’s difficult to distinguish when one track ends and another starts, not because they aren’t different, but because you don’t want there to be any gaps – you don’t want things to stop moving. It all feels like a crucial part of the bigger picture, and needs no such analysis or fencing between moments.
Towards the end, we’re gifted a hint of a time-line – Imagining August 1976, Here – and the piano again steps up to center stage – the musician sharing the spotlight with the mood, just briefly. Then blissful calm takes us through the imagery of Night Sky Over The Face Of A Nearby Tarn, before All Across The High Plain After The Storm brings back that piano-led musicianship in a more distinctive manner for the finale.
It’s often the case, but perhaps more true than ever this time around – the music of Forest Robots makes for a blissful go-to whenever the world starts to weigh too heavily on the heart and the mind. The playlist permits you the space and time within which to ponder your own decisions and pathways. It is precisely the safe space the artist intended it to be.
A beautiful gift for ambient music fans far and wide – embrace the outdoors from the comfort of your home.