Bandcamp Daily’s Best Of 2020, Electronic Sound Magazine Best Of September Issue 69, and The Moderns 2019-2020 Best Of
After Geography submerges the listener, encapsulates, enchants, and comforts by the various patterns and structures beaming across the musical thread. Beats are unnecessary when dealing with concepts of this caliber, the superior importance remains in the tapestry and execution. Meandering and traversing through the compositions, Forest Robots has never been more keen on embedding such rich, yet subtle, ambiance that augments the plethora styles cascading in various degrees throughout the album.
Set to be released August 28, 2020, Forest Robots does a remarkable job ensuring his devices are attuned to the laden-workings harboring his message.
A Detailed Cartography introduces the environment. Minimal haziness draws upon various fragile timbers, burning colorful embers, while synths breathe a sense of clarity into the mix.
Mapping our whereabouts with bass strings gently plucked and intertwined through a series of whirs and breathy winds carrying us along on a splendid journey. We scan the diaphanous horizon and trace our illustration of the mapped geography. Angelic synth pads subtly caress our eas on this voyage, leaving reverberated streaks glistening while bass stabs are repeated. When the aura descends into a crisp unity of its spheric progression, we come across the next track, Of Birds Migrating In The Distance. Staring at the sky, we watch nature’s creation move effortlessly.
Here, the bass shines briskly, while echoic stirs cascade from ear-to-ear, blinking an evanescence, anticipating what’s to come next. A gentle piano trails along our path, a steady character in flux amid the scenic instruments crafting tonal snapshots from golden canyons as birds migrate to the high mountaintops. Amidst their flight, violins ascend into the air, allowing our ears and senses to soar along until we start observing the musical firma though Karst Wildlife Surveying.
Mellifluous, almost dampened, tones vacillate softly, breathing in-and-out through tight spaces. The instruments of this valley stare into the rising sun, while gently plucked bass strings swarm and materialize this sacred energy.
Accompanying the scenery, Awash In Granite Geometry feels like that trepidatious feeling of observing cliffs and rugged terrain, beckoning for adventure as mystery awaits.
Excellent sonic avenues extend across this mountain, while the piano softly pushes us along this ledge. The bass’s rumble is nerve-racking, but even this ethereal beauty hints at only the adventure, without the existential danger.
Over the Drainage Divide contrasts with the structures explored, are we lost? Have we missed a turn somewhere? Dark, somber breathy tones envelop us into cold space, the arctic surroundings offer nothing but the solidarity within ourselves, the only place of salvage. Piano’s pick up, the regular instruments jump around in an organized and amicable fashion. The atmosphere beckons a sense of restlessness, but the piano’s mesmerizing sequence is a tonal snapshot for perseverance, propelling us into our next enterprise.
Glacial Architecture Of The Mountain Corridor sparkles in a mellow scheme of the fuzzy backing piano, accompanied by coruscating string foils and the warped trembling character traits of backing atmospheric textures. This skit is rounded off by beautiful icy sweeps that float up like a breeze and down like cascades. Repeating their ambiance traversed by spectral quirks, while my favorite track, Imagining August 1976, Here, is a masterful piece of eupeptic contentment. Warm sounds streams and coalesce, merge and depart regularly, creating a sound carpet that is ever-changing and allows enough room for the sustain to mesh with sometimes what sounds like distant temple gongs.
All Across The High Plain After The Storm enhances the naturally skillful creation of marvelous realms remaining to continually be embarked, an inner journey through the cold landscapes of abandonment and across glacial monuments sparking a sense of preservation. The peacefully quavering vibrato of emerging rain pads merges stringed-instruments with the quiescent scenery.
Despair will always conquer our understanding of where personal avenues eventually guide us, but isn’t that the sense of freedom?
Contemporary, and ambient, music resembles this sense of ‘I don’t know.’ (‘I don’t know’ what the composer has in store, will it be terrible, mystifying, depressing, enlightening?) Who cares! ‘I love,’ becomes the reaction, a power easily sourced from Forest Robot’s expertise, a phenomenal force that shapes any material’s landscape.
“After Geography” is the fourth Forest Robots full-length album following, 2018’s ‘Supermoon Moonlight Part I’ and ‘Timberline And Mountain Crest’, as well as 2019’s ‘Times When I Know You’ll Watch The Sky’. The album harks back on Fran’s past outdoor explorations. The California-based electronic composer, is a seasoned mountaineer with over 400 ascents and 6,000 miles of x-country river crossing, rock climbing, snow trudging, rock scrambling and bush whacking.
The album’s core theme centers on life altering situations while traversing in the mountains, when unexpected variables arise and regardless of your preparation, you have only your intuition to guide you. “The current world pandemic caused by COVID 19 and the social unrest and injustices taking place across the country (U.S.) have been reminding me of those moments lately,” says Fran. “I feel this current state of the world is very much on par with those life altering moments in the outdoors.”
Over the subsequent 10 tracks, which appear on the album, “After Geography”, it becomes abundantly clear that project leader, Fran Dominguez is still up to his old tricks, which is to say, making the obliquely strange, sound familiar, and making the deeply familiar, sound subliminal.
Minimal keyboard-induced ambient structures create a warm, sentimental glow which is simultaneously juxtaposed with the suspension and temporality conjured by the hypnotic swirling of restrained timbres and subtle melodies. The album unfolds with its ambiance and pace floating about in an extremely reflective state.
orest Robots has crafted an emotionally-searching, calculated musical narrative, but what you see and experience is really out of his hands. Much depends on your own personal empathy and compassion.
This recording is consistently smooth, well-engineered, and flawlessly performed. Each note is given its own space and invites you to savor each individual tone. Hauntingly lovely, these compositions are just right for our troubled times. Forest Robots in a way seems to understand the importance of pushing not only his mind, but the minds of his listeners.
Forest Robots has struck gold with “After Geography”, and it’s perfectly balanced sound forms are nothing short of therapeutic. Stress, impatience, frustration, rage – all negative emotions – completely dissolve with even one uninterrupted session of this album, as Forest Robots stimulates you to ponder your life’s circumstances, while he chronicles the experiences of his voyages.
From “A Detailed Cartography” to “Awash In Granite Geometry”, and “Over The Drainage Divide” to “Night Sky Over The Face Of A Nearby Tarn”, these gently persuasive tracks will hold your attention and induce your mood.
Forest Robots’ excursions into the landscape on “After Geography” are beautiful and evocative. The sounds here, do not reach out to you, instead they draw you in towards them. Fran Dominguez not only creates a personal world of sound, but shows that he can conjure and also take willing participants through any sonic vista he imagines.
The music is as much about an inward journey of thought and discovery, as it is about an outward journey which may have been inspired by a certain type of environment, but applies to the world as a whole.
Whether approached as an active listening experience, or simply enjoyed for its utility as a chill album, “After Geography” satisfies on both levels. I could throw about song titles and dissect each track, but there are no words to describe the subtle moods and emotional depths of this work – you simply have to listen to it.
“After Geography” is a very diverse entity with regards to the Forest Robots catalog. With all the electronic bells and whistles temporarily laid to rest, this may just be Fran Dominguez’ in his finest hour.
With a deep connective respect to the landscapes this intrepid mountaineer and sonic explorer has scaled and traversed, Fran Dominguez provides a subtly evocative safe space in the most tumultuous of times. When all the elements of a virus epidemic and the ongoing tensions of Black Lives Matter mix with the divisive rage of social media and fake news, the only tool we have left to navigate the storm of constant faux-outrage is “intuition”. Put both together, as the California-based trekker Dominguez has done, and you get a most beautifully subversive ambient soundtrack; a tenderly produced sonic psychogeography of both the synthesized and naturalistic; a million miles away from the hubbub and stress of the online world. A sort of self-help guide for contemplation and rest you could say, the softened bobbing and trickled piano notes and gently blowing winds washing over the listener with just enough depth and interest to transport them to the awe-inspiring landmarks of nature.
With over 400 ascents and 6,000 odd miles of cross-country exploring under his belt, Dominguez tunes into those experiences when composing music under the Forest Robottitle. Intuition, that main motivation and driver for the latest tonal contouring suite, After Geography, comes into practice after all the preparation in the world fails to allow for the variables that arise when climbing those magnificent rocky peaks. Though obviously a great title in itself and an encapsulation of the Forest Robot’s meditative semi-classical, semi-Kosmische maps, the inspiration behind it comes from Ringo Starr. As the anecdote from rock’s backpages goes, the bejeweled digit fingered Beatles drummer proposed it when the Fab Four were stumped for a title for their next album after Revolver. As a lighthearted chide at the rivals, The Rolling Stones, who’d just released Aftermath, Starr chimed in with “After Geography”. It seems highly appropriate in this context, and in this time.
An escapist survey that breaths in the influences of Roedelius, Boards Of Canada, Erik Satie, Harold Budd, Nils Frahm and Small Craft On A Milk Sea era Eno, the album covers the terrain in a gauze of delicate resonance, notation and obscured woody movements. Track titles become descriptive reference points and wildlife moments experienced, on this aural map; a clue at times to the scenic inspirations that encouraged them. ‘Of Birds Migrating In The Distance’ is for example a winged patted dance and flutter across the ivory, and the marimba-like bobbing ‘Glacial Architecture Of The Mountain Corridor’ features crystalized icy notes and melting droplets: it’s almost as if Dominguez captures the sunlight gleaming off the slowly melting glacier. ‘Over The Drainage Divide’, which doesn’t exactly sound very inspiring, is surprisingly wondrous, even spiritual, with its choral ethereal waves and hints of ghostly visitations. An ascendant version of that choral spirit can also be heard on the soft droning, delayed and bouncing notes beauty ‘All Across The High Plain After The Storm’.
A mostly peaceable geography, Dominguez’s latest impressive suite offers the safety of a timeless rugged pristine panorama. A breath of fresh air; a sonic plain on which to gain some perspective, that intuitive methodology proves highly successful on a most pleasing, imaginative ambient experience.
When I was I small child I would spend an unfeasible amount of my time lying on my back, watching the clouds drifting across the sky. I was hypnotized by the constantly moving, swirling patterns, the shapes, the colors, the shadows, the way the sun would illuminate the clouds edges. For the infant me, it was like a wonderful, magical dream. These remarkably beautiful formations, seemingly just out of reach, transfixed my imagination. This, may seem a incredibly indulgent, whimsical and irrelevant way to start an album review, but Forest Robots has created an album of ambient soundscapes that induces images and the similar feelings of wonder and awe and its impossible not to draw comparisons with simpler, uncomplicated times and emotions.
The Californian based Francisco Dominguez started Forest Robots as "a love letter to my daughter about the wonders of nature."
And on his fourth studio album, “After Geography” the inspiration from the natural world is, as expected, forefront. However the album is also an attempt to address the current pandemic and social unrest and injustices. Dominguez writes
"It is my intention with this album to provide a safe space for listeners to nurture their intuition and help them create the best approach to this crisis."
With this in mind, Forest Robots has crafted ten sparse, minimal, organic sounding, ambient, dreamscapes. The songs are piano based, touching on Modern Classical, Electronic Ambient and occasionally even Drone Ambient. The album as a whole fires the imagination and, like any decent soundscape it paints pictures and fosters emotions. The pictures on “After Geography” are meditative, reflective visions created from the gentle keyboard hooks and the occasional guitar hooks, underpinned by warm electric pads and the odd sets of synth strings.
The minimal sound allows the music to take the listener on little excursions. Memories of adventures traipsing though woodland, walks along rivers or lying on damp lawns watching the clouds sail by. The emotions “After Geography” generates are much more mixed. At times there’s a touch of melancholy and disappointment with even a tinge of sorrow. At other times it’s joyful, uplifting and even playful, but always there’s the feeling of quiet reflection and meditation.
Forest Robots fourth album certainly achieves its goal of creating a “safe place.” It is a stunningly beautiful, emotional and immersive listening experience. If you are after something to get the party started, look elsewhere. But if you are looking for something, reflective, to gently spark the imagination, then “After Geography” will steer you down the least trodden paths and may even rekindle memories and emotions of your long forgotten youth.
Forest Robots is the musical brainchild of electronic artist and composer Fran Dominguez and this project has an interesting and unusual genesis. It began when he began pictorially documenting his travels to the Sierra Nevada mountain range. When his daughter was born, he started to attach narratives to his collections to teach his daughter about the wonders of nature.
This led to feeling inspired to compose music to go with these narratives and Forest Robots was born. In 2018, I gave glowing reviews to the albums Supermoon Moonlight – Part One and the follow up, Timberline And Mountain Crest. In 2019, he released his third full length album, Times When I Know You’ll Watch The Sky (which you can read here).
This year sees the release of After Geography, his fourth. The album’s title has an interesting back story and genesis. After Geography was a suggested title for The Beatles’ 1966 masterpiece Revolver, a witty idea from Ringo Starr as a reaction to The Rolling Stones album of that year, Aftermath. Something clicked when Fran read that story, as he realised this would make an apposite title.
In his own words: “Before any excursion, every experienced mountaineer will put in the time to research traveling routes, gear to bring, food to pack, weather patterns to watch out for and best times to travel. However, there comes a point during a climb when all of this preparation is inconsequential if your focus isn’t there.“
The album consists of ten tracks which ebb and flow into each other seamlessly and is a return to the more minimalist style of his earlier work. As with his other full length albums, it is best listened to as a continuous musical journey, combining classical, ambient, drone and musique concrete into a symbiotic whole.
A Detailed Cartography opens the album and immediately sets a tranquil, transcendent mood with its spacious soundscape, seemingly outside of space and time. Atmospheric synths drift in and out whilst a sparse harp-like melody of understated beauty drifts across your consciousness. It’s gentle majesty is best enjoyed via the evocative accompanying video.
This morphs seamlessly into the second track, Of Birds Migrating In The Distance. Built around another simply but haunting melody, this is augmented by a delicate high end piano motif that brought to mind the composer Erik Satie, one of his noted influences. Gradually, a third motif emerges and its recurrent pattern made me think of another, more modern, composer – namely, Philip Glass. The interplay of the three melodic strains is skilfully done and is another fine example of painting in sound that perfectly evokes the piece’s title.
Karst Wildlife Surveying takes subtlety to even greater heights, with tremulous murmurs of melody layered together to create an otherworldly tapestry of sound. Here he is painting in the most delicate watercolours and you get a visual image from the music that again resonates with the title (karst is a topography formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks).
It shifts almost imperceptibly into the fourth track, Awash in Granite Geometry which again suggests surveying rocky landscapes. This has another Erik Satie-esque piano melody, which floats serenely over a bedrock of ambience.
Over The Drainage Divide has a similar feel of epic expanse, conjuring numerous images of nature in the mind’s eye and capturing the sense of grandeur one feels when confronted with scenes of great natural beauty. Subtly Widening Bergschrunds is also expansive in scope and has an almost glacial quality, which again captures the essence of the piece (a bergschrund is a crevasse at the junction of a glacier or snowfield). To be able to paint in sound in this way is quite an art.
The wonderfully titled Glacial Architecture Of The Mountain Corridor has a similarly opaque quality, but with an intricate, tumbling melody that brought to mind another French composer, Saint Saens. It’s probably the least minimal piece on the album, providing contrast whilst maintaining the perfect musical continuity.
Imagining August 1976, Here is another captivating piece, evoking a late summer haze and with a distinct air of melancholic nostalgia imbued in its gossamer-like drifting melodies. It imparts the same feeling one can get from looking at an old faded photograph and reminiscing on a happier time, a bittersweet emotion.
Night Sky Over The Face Of A Nearby Tarn is similar in mood but with that glacial quality found in earlier tracks. A tarn is a mountain lake, pond or pool, formed in a cirque excavated by a glacier and so it’s another masterly evocation of nature’s majesty, and captures the magic of the night sky in tone.
The musical journey concludes with All Across The High Plain After The Storm, which starts out in a minimalist way then gradually develops into the epic expansiveness that characterizes some of the album’s most sublime and transcendent moments. Almost imperceptibly, like a musical mirage, you can picture a camera swooping over vast vistas of land then pulling away to infinity, closing the circle.
Overall, this is another scintillating collection of nature-inspired instrumentals that capture composer Fran Dominguez’ art at its most nuanced and subtle. With a unique talent for portraying panoramic landscapes in tonal form, he takes the listener on another sonic adventure that captures the thrill of travelling and surveying the many natural wonders of the world. Fans of Harold Budd, Brian Eno and Philip Glass will find much to enjoy here and hopefully this album will provide some artistic solace to many during this tumultuous time in history, as it was intended.
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.
fter Geography is a new (and fourth) album from Forest Robots (the musical project of Francisco Dominquez). This artist has managed to crank out high quality releases at an impressively prolific pace, and his latest one is no exception. The album title was inspired by an anecdote where Ringo Starr once jokingly suggested that the Beatles should name their next album After Geography to follow the Rolling Stones’ recent record, Aftermath. However, when reading this old story, Francisco found the title to be genuinely fascinating and thought the phrase was be a good fit for his nature-oriented, ethereal musical content.
The songs on this album are mostly piano-driven and minimalist, but with the ambient backing, still manage to have a full, satisfying sound. There’s a little bit more mystery than on previous Forest Robots releases. The tracks have a delicate, almost intimate quality to them. While the pacing is extremely modest, I wouldn’t call it mellow, because there’s a subtle, underlying suspense that keeps you on your toes. Songs like Glacial Architecture Of The Mountain Corridor remind me a bit of the sort of exploration music you’d hear in a vintage adventure video game, where you might be navigating your way through a fun little forest, yet know there might be something unexpected around the next corner. That particular track is probably my favorite tune on here.
One aspect of this music I really appreciate is how organic and “alive” it sounds. It isn’t just wall to wall cinematic soundscapes templated for big budget movie theater surround sound. For example, Imagining August 1976, Here has a warm, analog vibe and contains delicious audio intricacies and artifacts. In this way, Forest Robots captures not just the spirit of “being outdoors,” but the actual sound of experiencing something real and tangible.
The final track All Across The High Plain After The Storm is probably one of the more musically sparse jams, but I found the piano to have a rather charming, “opera house” aura. It also only starts off minimalist, as it slowly building toward an epic, wonderland finish.
After Geography certainly lived up to the high expectations I’ve developed for this artist. You can tell he puts everything he’s got into constructing these recordings. When you listen to them collectively, they really do psychically take you on a mountaineering journey or leave you feeling like you just wandered through an untamed wilderness.
Fran Dominguez is a California-based electronic composer know by the stage name of Forest Robots, as well as a seasoned mountaineer with over 400 ascents and 6,000 miles of x-country river crossing, rock climbing, snow trudging, rock scrambling and bush whacking.
It is from these numerous experiences that he culls so many of his ideas and themes for his compositions, that range through ambient, classical, drone, synthwave, and IDM music. Creative sources that Dominguez feeds taking inspiration from his daughter, who is the main muse that drives him to compose a love letter about nature and the legacy he wishes to leave behind for her.
His latest album, ‘After Geography’, is an instrumental reflexive excursus leitmotiv, that talks about life-changing situations. Here it is easy to imagine yourself immersed in contemplative mountains crossings, when unexpected variables arise and, regardless of your preparation, you only have your intuition to guide you.
Through the 10 mesmeric tracks of ‘After Geography’, Forest Robots creates a sort of “vital magnetism” that develops throughout the album like a hypnotic leitmotiv, around which streams of metallic percussive sounds unfold. Exquisitely sophisticated in its argumentation, but at the same time affably relatable in delivery, the musical aesthetic focuses on sounds that are organic in their roots and rounded in their outlines.
Forming real sound scenographies, ‘After Geography’ is a deeply immersive experience that balances hypnotism and transcendentalism while bending space and time, generating rhythmically deconstructed ripples. An influx that, through its musicality, redefines a certain lexicon, first disorienting you, then projecting you into ancestral immersive perspectives, that is contemplative, almost tantric, evocative like few others.
After having fascinated us with the pristine music of his previous album ‘Times When I Know You’ll Watch The Sky’ – we talked about it in a previous article here – with ‘After Geography’ Forest Robots seems to be able to bring his creativity to an even higher level than it already was.
By molding a translation into sounds of that sense of uncontaminated beauty, depth, and spatiality that are properly related to nature, Dominguez gives us a unique listening experience. Like an alcove, a safe place to find nourishment and inspiration for a new balance between our lives and the outdoors. Certainly something to keep with us, to return to several times already starting with tomorrow, looking for a key to understand the new world we are going to face.
Describing his previous album, Times When I Know You’ll Watch The Sky, as, “Soothing. An electronic exploration in relaxation. A blueprint for aspiring ambient-electronic musicians.” And an, “…ode to all things of the natural world…”, for years now, Los Angeles, California-based electronic music producer, Francisco Dominguez has found solice in melding his love for his daughter, the natural world, and music, into his electronic passion project, Forest Robots.
His new album, After Geography, was made for these times, as a refection of this moment—as he sees it. In his own eloquent words, Fran has described his purpose and intention for this latest collection…
“With over 400 ascents and 6,000 miles of cross-country land hiked and climbed across California and the Pacific Northwest over the years, this album is, once again, informed and inspired by my experiences in the outdoors. After Geography focuses on life altering situations while traversing the mountains, when unexpected variables arise and, regardless of your preparation, you have only your intuition to guide you.
For the last few months, I have been reminded of such situations, and this past May I decided to document these experiences. Currently, there is so much information and disinformation about our current pandemic, social unrest and injustices, that at the end of the day you have only your intuition to guide you in making the right choices. I feel this current state of the world is very much on par with those life altering moments in the outdoors.
It is my hope with this album to provide a safe space to think more thoroughly about our personal choices and make decisions that are more deeply rooted in empathy and compassion.”
With those words in mind, we present to you, After Geography. Layers of airy, etheric synth fade in & out, back and forth across the set, as a subtle keys melody expresses one note at a time in the album’s opening track, A Detailed Cartography. There’s a very cinematic mystique here, and it all feels quite observational, reflective, quiet, still.
Layers of airy, etheric synth fade in & out, back and forth across the set, as a subtle keys melody expresses one note at a time in the album’s opening track, A Detailed Cartography. There’s a very cinematic mystique here, and it all feels quite observational, reflective, quiet, still.
Of Birds Migrating In The Distance has a curious and minimal keys melody, similar to its predecessor. There’s more movement here, however. A dance, perhaps. But still, even while violins build a wall of sound around the listener, that quiet state of observation remains.
OUR FAVORITE TRACK… Celestial tones burst subtly and in slow-motion into being as, Awash In Granite Geometry, fully develops. This music demands presence.
Glacial Architecture Of The Mountain Corridor feels like an epiphanal moment in time, where a window of awareness opens briefly, and all one can do is stare in awe, knowing the moment is soon to pass.
The aptly titled, Night Sky Over The Face Of A Nearby Tarn, captures the essence of the stillness of night with little more than a few key strokes and subtle synth tones in the distance. It feels like being stream-side under moonlight.
All Across The High Plain After The Storm: The awakenings of all manner of curious creatures as the sun ascends. An exercise in patient observation. A new dawn. A way to see one’s life.
IN CONCLUSION…A defining moment. A turning point. An unexpected ride into a soothing world of sonically healing tones. Forest Robots’ (a.k.a., Francisco Dominguez) latest album, After Geography, represents a substantive shift in consciousness, a non-aggressive plea for change, and one man’s explanation of how things actually could be—through the art of song. With no words to trigger intellect or interpretive meaning, these ten songs mimic nature’s taoist tendency by ebbing and flowing in a natural harmony, thereby allowing a listener to experience their own version of the music and the moment. Check out music from, After Geography, below.
WHOSE LOVECHILD…? Jon Hopkins meets Clint Mansell…
Forest Robots…aka, as reliable of a source of fantastic Ambient music as one could ever hope to find. I’ve had the privilege of being able to spend a bit more time with this record than I get to with most. Call it the added benefit of being a massive fan, I received the upcoming Forest Robots record somewhere around the beginning of June and I’ve been lucky enough to keep spinning it ever since in between doing whatever else it is I’m up to here at sleepingbagstudios. Personally, I could listen to Forest Robots all day, every day, and I’d never even remotely get bored or likely be anything less than absolutely fascinated…but if I’m being truthful, I tend to save this record like the dessert after a meal. After all the madness of my days have been completed since getting my hands on an early copy of After Geography, I’ve chosen to unwind and spend my late-night hours quite often listening to this album.
I’m honestly amazed by After Geography and what Forest Robots has pulled off once again here in 2020. This has been a minimalist’s audible dream project to begin with, but if you had told me that somehow Fran was going to achieve more with even less on this album, I don’t know if I would have believed you. He’s always stuck to the bare essentials…the ingredients of an atmosphere required, and more often than not, not a single touch of anything more than exactly what you wanna hear, right where you wanna hear it happen. “Everything in its right place,” to quote the great Sir Thomas of Yorke. What I’m saying is that this wasn’t music that was at all overstuffed with anything excessive to start with – and to even think that somehow Forest Robots could dial it back further, and still make a massive impact…well…I mean…it kinda defies logic, wouldn’t you say? Yet here we are, and that’s exactly what’s happened.
The journey begins with “A Detailed Cartography,” a brilliant opening cut that seems to blow ambient sound at you like the secrets of the universe are riding in on the wind, and if you tilted your head just right, you might be lucky enough to hear’em all. Sounds crazy I know, but once you hear the music of Forest Robots, I guarantee you’ll understand…there’s a wisdom and a connection to a whole world of sound in this project that is always apparent. Listen to moments like the finale at the 3:15 mark, where the direction will change and the wind dies down at the very end…the effect of that one transition alone is damn near worth the entire price of admission folks, it’ll send shivers down your spine as you listen, I promise ya. It makes for an amazing final moment in what’s been a stunning adventure from beginning to end…the use of texture & tone reign supreme in the most subtle of ways on “A Detailed Cartography,” & literally every single sound you hear will have your ears captivated & seeking out more. When it comes to the context of this record and the style it explores, “A Detailed Cartography” also plays a pivotal role in informing your ears as to what to expect throughout After Geography – and if they like what they hear on this first cut, believe me when I say you’ll be there right til the very end. Listen to the all-out remarkable shifts around the 2:25-ish mark and how much pure melody each tone seems to possess individually…amazing. In my heart of hearts, I know how much Ambient music tends to fly right by the majority of the masses…but I’m tellin’ ya…if you sit, listen, and give a song like “A Detailed Cartography” your undivided attention, you’ll be blown away, and by the most subtle of musical means.
There’s a solid chance a cut like “Of Birds Migrating In The Distance” will stand a bit more of a chance with a wider audience, given that it has a livelier melody that thrives more prevalently on the surface of this second tune on After Geography. Again, I have no clue what’s actually happening as far as what Fran is using to create such exquisite magic in our speakers, but will ya listen to how spectacular these muted tones come out sounding? I love the curious way that this song seems to develop…like the main melody line is fully confident, but the rest all kinda creeps in & shows up with an idea that gets released into the mix slowly…not unsurely, but almost like testing out different ingredients in the background before they’re a full-on part of the recipe. “Of Birds Migrating In The Distance” inarguably has more tangible melody for folks to latch onto…I’m probably more personally partial to “A Detailed Cartography” myself, but I’m certainly not complaining about this second cut either – both of these tunes stack up to a highly engaging start to this record that’s full of Ambient uniqueness in full bloom.
Songs like “Karst Wildlife Surveying” take me back to when I was listening to a ton of different artists in the Ambient genre that were choosing to go against the grain and discover minimalism, like when I found Colleen’s album Everyone Alive Wants Answers and pushed play for the very first time. There was something so…almost disconnected in a way, but so dialed-in in others. Disconnected in the sense that it was like Colleen was making music without considering a single other soul on the planet, but as a result of that method, whatever it was, every song you’d hear on that album felt like it was connected to a whole other part of the world…and it takes you on a true journey to another place if you just close your eyes and listen. I felt very much the same towards “Karst Wildlife Surveying,” and truthfully, towards quite a bit of what Forest Robots creates in that same respect…I’ve always believed that you don’t go into making Ambient music as a venture to certain fame & fortune, you do it because you truly love it…because there’s something special in this style of music that does not exist in any other. It goes beyond music…it’s tough to explain…the best I can say is that, the sound of what you’ll hear in a project like Forest Robots is the very link between our own hearts & minds and the world we share around us. That element of nature in the Ambient style of Forest Robots has always been an impeccable part of the magic and why it connects to us…because deep down in our souls, we know these songs. Make no mistake, they’re not covers, they’re not old songs we know – but they’re sounds that feel like they’re a genuine part of us…and I’d wager a bet that’s because somewhere out there in the ether, they truly are. Each moment of “Karst Wildlife Surveying” is so thoughtfully well-placed into an entire tapestry that beautifully unfolds at a magnificently compelling & captivating pace; it sparkles quaintly, humbly, and flows as naturally as a stream does down the river. Subtle as ever, but unmistakably gorgeous as well.
When it comes to the masses outside of the Ambient genre, it’d be pretty hard to really argue on behalf of one of these tunes over any other as to being the one cut to pull people in…but I’d say it’s probably not “Night Sky Over The Face Of A Nearby Tarn.” That being said, vice-versa is also true; if you are a huge fan of the Ambient realm, then right on, you’ll love “Night Sky Over The Face Of A Nearby Tarn.” Personally I have no objections…I do think it’s arguably one of, if not THE most minimalistic of the bunch in this set-list of songs, but I definitely believe if you like even a piece of this record you’re bound to love it all. From beginning to end, if I’m being 100% truthful with ya, it’s rare to hear an album quite as cohesive as you’ll find After Geography really is. Songs like “Night Sky Over The Face Of A Nearby Tarn” might get recognized by some on its own merit – others might simply hear it as an extension of what they’ve already been experiencing on this record…and quite frankly, both of those situations are okay. I can hear that “Night Sky Over The Face Of A Nearby Tarn” has audibly less to latch onto and would understand if some listeners out there had a harder time sticking with this one or finding their way into it; that’s not the reality for yours truly listening right here, but I would get where they’d be coming from. There’s no question that this isn’t the kind of song to beat you over the head with neon sound to get your attention…no Forest Robots tune really goes that route that I can think of. Respect in this project is earned through those that really take the time to listen and absorb these incredible audio atmospheres.
Of which you WILL get the opportunity to do so, soon. After Geography comes out officially on August 7th this year – so mark that date, because this is definitely a record you wanna have if you’re a lover of the finest of Ambient music. Forest Robots end the experience with “All Across The High Plain After The Storm” to finish the album with a series of glorious sounds and a seriously refreshing-meets-uplifting vibe circling the atmosphere of this aura. It’s like you’re out there in the wild, all on your own, watching the sun rise over the valley on a brand-new day…and you have the wherewithal to appreciate the true majesty of what you’re witnessing & understand how every tree, leaf, & stream are connected to us all. Whereas many of the songs on this record will feel like they lock into the magic of one specific moment in time, “All Across The High Plain After The Storm” takes you on a more expansive & expressive journey from start to finish. Just past its mid-point, you’ll hear the glow that’s been hiding itself in the background continue to rise up through the final minutes of the last song on After Geography as Fran and Forest Robots put a real spiritual and soulful spin into the album’s finale. You feel like your mind has been cleansed, rested, and reset to tackle any obstacle that might come your way after listening to this album in-full…and you couldn’t possibly ask for more than that in a single listening experience if you ask me. Another remarkable record in a catalog of tunes that is easily amongst the best in Ambient out there anywhere in the scene today, bar none.