Frore (aka Paul Casper) heads into dreamily miasmal electro-shamanic spaces on his newest outing, Undercurrent. Employing rattles, stones, digeridoo, shakuhachi, fujara, Tibetan bowls, field recordings and more to layer over long-form drones, Casper creates an hour-long journey reminiscent of Steve Roach’s more shadowy excursions. This is a darkly meditative disc, a spot-on bit of tribal ambient that oozes with primal memory and takes the listener well down into themselves courtesy of big, horizon-spanning pads and soul-awakening percussion. It’s easy to get lost in, and to do so quickly. Undercurrent begins with “Journey Internal,” rising out of a quiet, cave-like atmosphere. The percussion kicks in to drive up the energy and fill the space. The sound thickens and deepens; the flute calls out like a bird from this tangled jungle of sound. It’s an energetic way of setting the stage, and gives us a peek at the elements ahead–the drums, the rich field recordings, the deep greys that form the tone overall, the shambling pace. Casper carries us deeper in “The Dreaming Ground,” guided by the resonating thump of a frame drum. (I won’t keep dropping Roach references, but this puts me very much in mind of InnerZone, a personal favorite.) The middle of this track is about where I surrender to Casper’s constructs and just cut loose into the flow. The small sounds at the periphery, the gurgle of the didgeridoo and the dry clatter of shakers, add a lot of subtle dimension. “Trial By Fire” is pushed along on some of the strongest percussion here, pounding a beat over soft, eddying flows. This one has a nice sense of ritual to it. For pure immersion, drop into the 18-minute centerpiece, “Emerge from Shadow.” A churning rhythm charts the course over softly wailing pads. The steadiness of the beat is hypnotic, and the flow is warm, wrapping around you like smoke. Casper manages a nice shift mid-track, easing out the rhythm and giving the space over to these silken sounds. It truly lets you focus on them, and just dwell in the wide space Casper has carved out. The beats are slowly and briefly folded back in, but you’re left to drift for the last couple of minutes. This fades to the closer, “Place of Shelter,” which is pure ambient. Casper lays out his wide-sky pads, anchored with a rich and earthy low end and lets the work coast to a soft and soul-cleansing finish. There’s a definite sense of the journey gliding to completion.
Undercurrent falls squarely in my personal wheelhouse. This is exactly the stuff I love–strong tribal overtones that shake loose our primal memories, textbook drone and ambient pad work backed with superb percussion, and a true sense of journey. That’s one of the strongest aspects of Undercurrent; you move along with it, pass through its shifting spaces, rise and fall with it, and emerge feeling the effects. It transports and transforms the listener, and absolutely demands repeat play. One of the best tribal-ambient works I’ve heard in a while.
Available from Dark Duck.