Our Daily Bread 464: Forest Robots ‘Horst & Graben’

August 24, 2021

ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

Forest Robots ‘Horst & Graben’
(Elm Records) 1st September 2021

Subscribing to the ambient version of the National Geographic (though I might christen this particular style as ‘Notional Geographic’), arduous cross-country and mountain trekker Fran Dominguez once more sonically contours the landscape and the pondered philosophical quandaries that it evokes.

Under the Forest Robots alias, nature’s son has found a peaceable, if at times dramatic, escape from the divisive stresses of the last four years by taking to the great American outdoors; finding not only solace but various Taoist posed metaphors of a simpler, ideal life spent in unison with nature.

The music might be slow, purposeful, but Dominguez isn’t one to rest on his laurels having released a number of top quality ambient map readings during the pandemic. The geological entitled Horst & Graben (in case you need to know, or if sitting your geography tests, ‘Horst’ is a raised block of the Earth’s crust that has lifted or has remained stationary whilst land either side has subsided, and ‘Graben’ is a depressed block of a planet or moon’s crust bordered by parallel faults) is his second minor opus this year; following on from the March released Amongst A Landscape Of Spiritual Reckoning.

Still imbued by a litany of ambient and neo-classical forbearers, the new traverse is perhaps Dominguez’s most out and out kosmische sounding album yet. Navigating fauna, chasms, peaks and allegorical waters the soundtrack pays homage to Cluster, Harmonia and solo Roedelius, and Eno and Bowie’s ‘Moss Garden’ in the ‘Neuköln’ neighborhood. To these ears there’s also a touch of Andrew Heath’s (who coincidently collaborated with Roedelius) lower case form of sparse and serial piano playing.

But this particular touching, often moving album is also imbued by the award-winning examinations of the acclaimed biologist and author David George Haskell; most notably his 2017 book, The Songs Of Trees, which looks at our innate connection with tree. Dominguez uses the author’s stories as a diving board for his own existentialist contemplations, reflections and spiritual peace of mind, but also prompts a lot of hard thinking on the hot topics of the last few years too: can we, for example, reconcile our differences, ideologies and work together on solving climate change?

Every philosophically poetic entitled track finds a balance between glades of natural light, organic paced reveals and more cosmic, elevating spells: the most stunning kosmische blaze of them all is left until the end, on the Harmonia redolent mouthful, ‘In The Aftermath Of Rain No Grain Of Sand Remains Unstirred’. It’s a subtle affair with enervated moments of a polygon windows Richard James, but mostly the Forst secluded stirrings of the whole Cluster and Harmonia experiment (especially that triumvirate of Rothar, Roedelius and Moebius); all transformed through Dominguez liquid droplets, vapours, clean and beautifully descriptive filters. Here’s hoping those calm quandaries will rub off on the angry, riled masses, because we could sure do with a healing balm of musical inspiration right now.

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.


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