Forest Robots – “Horst & Graben” explores more than just dark atmospheres and hypnotic soundscapes

Emmasierra Songs and Elm Records recently presented “Horst & Graben”, the sixth album and second full length release of 2021 from Fran Dominguez aka Forest Robots. The album consists of ten tracks that weaves in and out of Ambient, Electronic, Neo Classical, Drone and Experimental genres. The album is a reflection on the stories from David George Haskell’s book ‘The Songs of Trees’ and uses these stories to contemplate the direction of our own sense of spirituality and existentialism in a pandemic ravaged world where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore our status as global citizens amidst non-stop social unrest.

The album doesn’t pretend to have any easy answers to our predicament, but rather elaborates on our species being one massive ecosystem with a myriad of complex connections with one another. The fact of us being equally the most advanced and least effective ecosystem on this earth, is also brought up for scrutiny.

As with all of Forest Robots releases, it’s much easier to listen to his music than simply write about, or explain it. The subliminal waves of sound wash over timeless expansions of thought and emotions throughout “Horst & Graben”. The subtle contributions of the producer’s sound design only enhance David George Haskell’s already melancholic impressionist approach filled with beauty and also a sense of loss. Pure genius.

Forest Robots doesn’t set his instruments and sounds against each other to simply produce sonic juxtapositions, melodic conformity or harmonic dissonance; he uses them to describe imagined situations, challenges, events, actions and reactions – at first glance languid and passive, but on concentration, replete with minute detailing. The overall effect of these pieces is a sense of immensity almost beyond our comprehension.

“Horst & Graben” explores more than just dark atmospheres and hypnotic soundscapes. Here, Forest Robots does something many musicians have tried to accomplish – use an affirmed and acclaimed narrative as the main ingredient, but without being too overbearing, over-derivative, or just for its mere sake. Forest Robots constructs haunting instrumental passages based on Haskell’s works but draws his own parallels, assumptions and conclusions.

During the beat-less layers of lush pads, deep sonic basses, dusty strings, keys and woodwinds, Forest Robots builds on meditative templates inflicting a trance-like state for the mind. If you put on ambient-styled music for the sole reason of not having to pay attention to it, then you will principally miss the point of “Horst & Graben”. However to be fair to Forest Robots talents, you will still be able to thoroughly enjoy the sonic auras created, even if you fail to create a storyline in your mind.

Listen to this recording one, two, or even three times, by yourself, and soon you will become aware that “Horst & Graben” is much more than a record of background noise, it is a brilliant exercise in musical subtlety and wordless storytelling. As the exposure to “Horst & Graben” begins to frequent your environment, the individual elements of each track take form and grow in your head, even when you’re not actively listening to the album.

“Horst & Graben” isn’t a formless piece of sound; each composition has a definite core structure that the listener can dwell on for its duration. Nothing on the album desires to grab your attention forcefully, but rather it seeks to seep into your mind over time, slowly growing and until you can no longer ignore it. In typical Forest Robots style, the track titles are also brilliantly and perfectly descriptive of its musical content, which may help as you slowly get lost in the world of “Horst & Graben”.


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