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.
This album, Supermoon Moonlight Part One, consists of ten instrumental tracks in the electronica/ambient genre. Dominguez cites various influences as musical inspiration, including electronic and ambient artists like Brian Eno, Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada but also artists like Nick Drake, David Bowie and Radiohead. His overall intention with this album is to inspire a love of nature and encourage people to preserve our natural lands.
It opens with the haunting A Path In The Woods, which melds beautiful harp-like melodies with a skittish, complex electronica beat and atmospheric synths. It builds gradually, developing into a shimmering soundscape that has a pleasingly hypnotic effect. A captivating way to start the album.
Second track, Times When I Know You Will Watch The Sky, Pt.1, is even more dreamy. Consisting of interweaving melodic patterns and a subtle but highly intricate beat, the swirling glockenspiel-esque synth sounds create a magical tapestry which immerses the listener and instils a meditative mood.
Shapes Shift In The Distant Shadows maintains the mood and is another five minute track, though this one is somewhat closer to mainstream electronica. It is built around a laid back four-to-the-floor rhythm, which develops into something restlessly inventive with all manner of syncopations and rhythmical intricacies flitting in and out of the mix. It is held together by the constancy of synth melodies which hold the attention till the end.
Fourth track Last Slivers of Moonlight is rather different. A moody, minimalistic and repetitive but addictive melody manoeuvres through some unusual harmonic changes and modulations and it brought to mind Philip Glass’s classical/ambient masterpiece Koyaanisqatsi. It shares the same restlessness and intensity, perfectly capturing the mood of a late night moon.
The beautifully titled Silhouettes Follow The Echoes then takes us into a more traditional electronic realm, developing into a Jean Michel Jarre-esque ambient journey with a pulsing beat. The high-end synth melodies add a lot of atmosphere, giving the music a crystalline texture. It’s perhaps the most instant track here and would make great soundtrack music.
Things turn rather weird and wonderful with the mindbending Then The Spider Turned Into A Cloud. With just a sparse but subtly intricate glitch beat, a lead melody drifts across the top, constantly morphing and pitch bending. It has a rather disorientating effect, but also induces the enjoyable otherworldly feeling you get from the best 60’s psychedelia.
And there’s more than a touch of the psychedelic in these titles, as shown by seventh track Mandelbrots In Winter. Mandelbrot was the 20th century mathematician who pioneered fractal theory and so this is presumably a musical depiction of snowflakes or other fractal shapes found in nature in winter. It’s one of the more opaque tracks, with an ominous bassline that never quite goes where you expect, melodically.
White Birds Dream of Dawn and Wind returns to more melodic climes, with a cluster of intertwining, soaring synth melodies set to a funky beat that wouldn’t sound out of place on a hip hop record. This is one of the strongest arrangements and melodies on the album, with subtle musique concrete low in the mix helping to retaini the album’s consistent air of mystery.
Ninth track By The Stillness Of The Lake is as tranquil and beatific as the title suggests, though at only one minute long it acts as a prelude to the last track, Follow The Towers To The Moon.
This one has a unique vibe, with a quirky, rubber-band bassline and a rather groovy Daft Punk-style beat. It somehow seems to combine the cumulative styles displayed across the album in a grand finale, with a fireworks display of synergistic synth melodies deployed in a dazzlingly tapestry. It’s an apposite way to complete what’s felt like an epic sonic adventure.
Overall, this is a fascinating album that manages to give seemingly abstract instrumental music a sense of narrative and progression. This has been achievable due to the authentic inspiration of experiencing nature, which kick-started the whole project. The quality of the composition and production is first rate, which is all the more impressive as Fran Dominguez does it all himself, entirely. Fans of ambient and music lovers, in general, will find much to enjoy here and hopefully will feel inspired themselves to go out and appreciate nature in all its glory.