Graham Reid | | 3 min read
The name will be unfamiliar – unless you followed the marriages of Elizabeth Taylor.
Larry Fortensky was her seventh and final husband: they were married at Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch in October '91 after she met him – a construction worker – in rehab in '88. They were divorced five years later.
She died in 2011, he died in 2016.
None of which has anything to do with the expat Kiwi, London-based ambient/soundtrack musician (and respected photographer) who goes by the Fortensky name.
This “Fortensky” played in rock bands in New Zealand in the Nineties and while working in graphics and visual technology in the UK created soundtracks which have appeared in US and UK television productions.
More recently he has been working in his home studio to create ambient, analogue atmospheric music which now incorporates field recordings from his extensive travels (Europe, US, India, Eastern Europe etc).
In 2019 he released three albums -- Excursion, Recollection and Fragments – and the following year three more: 2020 Division, The Empty Canvas and Frankensine.
Time in extended lockdown in London with travel curtailed has lead to a new album Voyage Requiems I in which he reflects on places he has been through soundscapes and samples.
Titles include Auckland, Kyoto, Las Vegas, Lisbon, Boipeba (in Brazil), Tblisi, Mumbai, Riyadh and Zaragosa (in Spain).
From the considered and atmospheric light-industrial sound (and Popol Vuh-like breadth) of the Excursion album – titles include Tonal Space, Yamanote Line (with a long organ-like sound), The Mechanics of Travel and Distance in Minutes -- to this new album, Fortensky's music evokes the moods of movement and travel, be they in the suspension of time outside the aircraft window in a black night, the constant but shapeless hum of an airport concourse or a strange new location.
On the Recollection album there is the eight minute ambience of What's the Time/Zone?, which was that perpetual question for many in the 21stcentury for whom time and space telescoped between one airport terminal and another.
Now however, with Voyage Requiems I, the places are recalled in retrospect and through sound samples.
On Las Vegas there is the relentless dark thump of that oppressive city with sampled voices (“strange thing about Vegas . . . turn on some music”), S Petersburg has a romantic grandeur, Johannesburg a dream-like quality, Mumbai a sense of a distant but impending event . . .
When William Wordsworth wrote his introduction to his collection Lyrical Ballads he spoke of “emotion recollected in tranquility . . . the tranquility gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that of the subject before contemplation, is gradually produced and does itself actually exist in the mind . . .”
So here is tranquility, contemplation and emotion from a time before the present when voyages and destinations, and the spirit of travel itself, are evoked in reflective, ambient pieces.
Declaration: In the many decades I have been writing about music I have never, to the best of my recollection, discussed my sons' bands or music.
At the Herald I felt that would be unprofessional, but of course it meant that their bands like Braintree, Stayfree Carefree (who recorded for Wildside), Uncle Pete's Garden Shed and many other of their projects went unacknowledged.
Well more fool me, because others relentlessly advanced their children's careers and of course today if the child graduates from Playcentre or wins a race they are all over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or whatever.
Fortensky is the project of my oldest son Julian Reid who has been living in London since 2003, has had his photos published in a number of journals and has built a music career parallel to his impressive day job.
You can hear and buy his music on Apple iTunes here.
Check out his website here where there is an audioreel for film and documentary makers.
He previously contributed these two photo essays to Elsewhere.