Forrest Fang is a Chinese-American musician with a strong interest in non-Western music, primarily the music of his Chinese ancestors, but he mixes and matches different ethnic styles and instruments with gay abandon. Even the most traditionally Chinese track, "The Windmill," mixes the Chinese zither with the Japanese palm harp, African balafon, and the Western mandola and synthesizer. The Chinese zither, or gu-zheng (also known as the cheng) is the more-complex forerunner of the better-known Japanese koto, and its elegant tones also grace the multi-layered "The Luminous Crowd." Also featured is the bandurria, a large South American guitar-like instrument that Fang plays in an unorthodox way with hammers, producing a resonant dulcimer sound. He is not afraid to use dramatic tension in his music and, as befits his marvelously named Ominous Thud record label, there is an eerie quality to much of his music, especially on the 24-minute "An Amulet and a Travelogue." Other tracks -- notably "Amelia," with its layered electric guitar, and the all-electronic "Silent Fields" -- move into more familiar Eno-esque terrain. The Wolf at the Ruins is an intriguing album that freely mixes space music with multifaceted ethnic colorings in a way that is sure to appeal to connoisseurs of experimental global music.
The Wolf at the Ruins Review