Forss - Ecclesia
It has been almost a decade since Eric Wahlforss, aka Forss, released his first record; in the meantime he's been a little busy with the development of SoundCloud, but at long last album number two is upon us. Ecclesia is constructed entirely from tiny fragments of field recordings taken in and around churches, building it back up into this glorious marriage of new and old, natural and artificial. Whether it be the angelic voices of the chorus practising, bells ringing to herald some joyous occasion, or someone coughing in the far corner, the entire life of the church has been deconstructed and reforged into a truly gorgeous and astounding record.
Even ignoring the accompanying iPad app that constitutes the visual aspect of the project (I refuse to buy one because it's the "in" gadget of the month), this is a wonderfully immersive experience as the relaxing and meditative strands weave a delicate aural web. Listen carefully and it becomes clear that every sound has been placed with an incredible attention to detail, but the overall effect is one of harmony and unity, as if the whole piece were recorded live.
The pure unadulterated sense of calm that resonates from Ecclesia means it does not feel like an electronic album, but neither does it fit in with the choral works of the likes of Sir John Tavener. The obvious comparison is with Enigma, and like them Forss manages to bridge the gaps without ever belonging; but, by the same token, this is certainly no rehashing of their ideas in a new technological world.
Despite the source and inspiration, no sense of religion or faith ever seems to enter Ecclesia. The music is enjoyed entirely on its own merit, the lush choral symphonies and majestic organs used simply because of their beauty and power. What Forss has managed to do on Ecclesia is strip out the connotations and fanciful overtones and build a sound that stands purely on its own merit, free from the burden often associated with church music. There will be no other album quite like this in 2012.