At times while listening to Frore’s tribal-ambient release, Shadowlands, I could not shake the feeling that I was hearing some long-lost Steve Roach work. But Frore (aka Paul Casper) should take that as the compliment it is meant to be. Shadowlands runs as deep as any of Roach’s techno-shamanic forays with its mix of drums, shakers, drones, flute and more. Tribal is my ambient of choice, and this disc pulls me immediately into the kind of space I love–pulsing, twilight-shaded, and primal. There may be no escaping the Roach comparison, particularly when you’re enmeshed in the midst of the tellingly titled “A Fevered Sleep” (bravo, Paul!), but set that aside and just let this good medicine wash over you. Casper’s atmospheres run deep throughout the five offerings here, and he shows a strong hand at blending electronic and acoustic. Flutes whisper over classic pads as “Sky Glow” begins the voyage, matched with varied percussion. I like the contrast between the simple cloud-drift pads and the complex weave of the drums and shakers. It’s textbook tribal and a great way to open. “Terra Pulse” and the previously noted “A Fevered Sleep” pull us into that familiar territory; “Terra Pulse” is a calm and fluid thing built on shifting, sliding pads that lull the listener before a fresh rhythm insinuates itself into this misty space. In here, also, you’ll hear Casper’s expert attention to the spatial aspects of ambient, carving out a distinctly dimensional sound–to my ears (or head), it feels like a wide, round place with a lot of craggy spots to snag light echoes. “First Ray of Light” hovers in space music territory, with vocal pads and the occasional crystalline chime tracing a cleansing, meditative through-line leading to the final track. This is a nice move by Casper, taking us out of the tribal space to float after the medicine has taken hold. (Also something of a Roach hallmark.) It ups the effect of the first shadowy tones of “A Name on the Wind.” The twang of strings come as a wake up call as Casper begins to layer sounds over windy drones. Brief passages on flute accent passing moments, and the piece overall has a wonderfully lonely sensibility about it.
I have let Shadowlands loop for several hours at a time. It’s a great background piece, but it really shines in a focused listen. Frore clearly has the tribal-ambient equation locked, and as always his music rings with a deep and personal honesty. Yes, you will hear the spirit of Steve Roach lurking behind the pads and drones on Shadowlands; that just means Frore knows enough to take a cue from a master, then make the work his own.
Available from Relaxed Machinery.