Part of the wherethetimegoes label, experimental electronic artist Frog of Earth wants to lead you on a journey down the Other rabbit hole: one built from synth keys and effects knobs, and which is as much about the fall as it is about the landing. Frog of Earth, a mystical self-titled record, comes accompanied by a cryptic paragraph, which adds little context, but adds a deep sense of atmosphere to the listening experience. It describes the humble frog as it ponders its environment, overcomes panic in the face of a moving world, and examines the waterways and reeds that make up his home.
The nine-track record consists of warped fictional field recordings of echoing rivulets, robotic bird calls and burbling pond creatures. The confused tension that comes with navigating a new world, internal or otherwise, is a constant on the album, giving it an almost parabolic, relatable quality. Glassy tones shift up and down. Space age noises are substituted for the sounds of animals. Every ping that wobbles and wurbles around you feels like another obstacle obstructing our brave frogs path. ‘Lying Down’ introduces the metronomic tapping of the frog’s fluttering heart. This is electronic music simulating nature: fabrication in the face of life. Sonically, you become completely immersed in this landscape.
A twisted Peter and the Wolf saga, Frog Of Earth has a fairytale quality to it at times as more organic sounding instruments are paired with the electronic soundscape. The flute-like melodies on ‘Means’ and harpsichord-esque synths on ‘Settle for Less’ prevent the album from going too far downstream, and keep things narratively grounded. The deep croak of the frog appears on ‘Settle For Less’, which begins with a nightmarish throbbing bass before opening into a wider sonic landscape. The frog’s initial panic is pushed down, and the only way to go is forward.
The Dub tracks which follow a newt and salamander sound like Boards of Canada with their hands on a modular synthesizer and an acid plug in. On ‘Newt Dub’, noises that sound like mayday signals irregularly pop, triggering a sense of unease. The steady synth chords offer some reprieve along with the tumbling, warped wooden jingles. Interestingly, the album’s highlight, ‘OY SHE UM’, moves away from watery wiggles and squelching communications of wind-up amphibians; opting instead for a more ambient and earthy quality. The sounds of the forest pour over the soft bell piano, the otherworldly noises swerve in and out, creating an environment of movement and life.
We’re not on solid ground with Frog of Earth, and at points it can be tricky to navigate. Some tracks lose themselves to a diluted cacophony. ‘The Mouth’ doesn’t balance its multiple rolling sounds as well as the opening tracks, and ‘Salamander Dub’ sinks below the surface. Final track ‘Settle for Less (Ned’s VIP)’ doesn’t deliver a triumphant hero’s end we might have been building to, offering a more reflective tone instead. But maybe that is the point of a journey through unfamiliar lands: to be immersed, to drift and continue on. Frog of Earth gently reminds us of the process of discovering the unexplored, and how uncertainty is an important part of adventure. Sophia McDonald