Undercurrent

Review from Hypnagogue.net

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.
 

Shadowlands

Review from Hypnagogue.net

    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.




Review from Richard Gurtler

Frore is Paul Casper from Virginia Beach, who spreads his composing talent not only with his tribal ambient infused project, but also with Scar Limit, focusing on harsher, industrial terrains. But we will remain in quieter electro-acoustic realms, so let's take now a closer look on Paul's newest work entitled "Shadowlands", which was released on Relaxed Machinery during March 2013 as Frore's 5th full length album. Frore's discography include also two CDr albums, "The Nameless Place" (2009) and "Undercurrent" (2013), both released via Dark Duck Records, as well as two download releases for Earth Mantra, "The Raven" (2009) and "Axis Mundi" (2012). Frore has already achieved a lot of positive reactions with his previous albums, so I am very glad to see this gifted soundscaper taking his part in Relaxed Machinery community, it's well-deserved!!!

 In case you are not familiar with Frore, "Shadowlands" is a perfect example, where Paul Casper skillfully utilizes except electronics also various acoustic instruments. The opening "Sky Glow" precisely bridges modern with ancient, expansive, wide-screen desert drones intermingle with gently emerging and evolving tribal pulses. Myriad of gradually increasing percussion coexists in absolutely gorgeous synergy with primordial wind instrument invasions (flutes, Slovak fujara...) and mysteriously immersing drone zones. This is definitely a tribal ambience at its finest, a true medicine for my ears!!! "Terra Pulse" unfolds with sparse, but deeply ebbing abyssal drifts augmented by assorted distant rumbling dissonances. Later balmy tribal pulses smoothly invade, progress, cascade and culminate into cavernously evocative and hypnotically intense shamanistic journey. Again richly detailed and harmoniously spellbinding, another big one!!! Announced by a thunder, a 19-minute long "A Fevered Sleep" moves into softly radiant groove terrains, smoothly growing into mesmerizing ritualistic climax. Second third embraces with its quieter and meandering surface, fully captivating, before sneaking back into groovier ethno origins. Towards the end, miscellaneous sonic artifacts awake and take us to gorgeously spectacular subterranean cavern. Aurally delicious and glorious composition!!! "First Ray Of Light" continues on this stunningly absorbing path, where warmly aerial washes sweep across tranquilly graceful panoramas, here and there meticulously enriched by distant tinkles. This is Frore at its most serene scenario, monstrously visualizing and soothingly surrounding!!! Desert-ambient maximus!!! Gentle rain sounds lead "A Name On The Wind", but soon heartening mandolin's stringed wizardry joins the stage with utterly evocative drifts. Later on gorgeously poignant shakuhachi flute steps in, but it's Armenian duduk that steals the whole show with all its magical beauty and expression. Immense cinematic drone textures with seductively yearning acoustics are fused in absolutely magnificent fashion. Creme de la creme of "Shadowlands"!!! And even if slightly reminiscent of longing atmospheric splendor explored on "Fissures" milestone, "A Name On The Wind" gets promptly my nomination for Ambient Hall of Fame!!!

Hats off to Paul Casper, Frore is certainly one of the rising stars on tribal ambient scene and "Shadowlands" album only confirms this status. Exquisitely fine in flavors and instrumentation, yet virtuously balanced work showcasing huge talent, accomplishment and potential of its sculptor. I also hope one day the albums like "The Raven" and "Axis Mundi" will find their way to a silver disc... But until then, "Shadowlands" album is a really triumphant release to get!!!

Richard Gürtler (Jun 30, 2013, Bratislava, Slovakia)