“A leader in bringing the mystical, unearthly sound of the didgeridoo to modern western ears, James Asher is a composer and field recorder who brings modern western melody and Aborigine Dreamtime magic together in Return of the Tiger, a blending that can’t be escaped any more than gravity or a haircut. Turn it on and feel it suck you into a slower, more enlightened way of doing things, where every breath can be structured to control one’s prana as effortlessly as light flows from the sun, or a lamp, or a cat lands on its feet. Fun and light as some of the melodies may be, this is serious medicine.
Opener “Gatekeeping” shows off Asher’s sumptuous mastery of the “circular breathing” process of true didgeridoo masters, as he seems to speak out in percussive waves through the instrument, under squelches and space-age sounds from a 303 synthesizer. The buzzing frenzy is enough to have you in an ecstatic trance running around your apartment, feeling the worries and woes of your daily life melt away to be replaced by something feral, immediate, and intimate. “Bells of Freedom” has a gentle, fun melody coming through on the bells over a percolating bed of synth, percussion, and didgeridoo. It’s only as the melody takes you over that you realize just how involved and fractal-elaborate it really is. Murky tracks like “Kundu Tribal” use the didge in conjunction with a funky, slippery electric bass and an industrial percussion grid to create the vibe of slithering and slinking into the center of the earth as a big cinnamon-butter wave moves to the edge of a cut piece of toast.
Like the blazing, saturated tiger from the flames on the cover, Asher’s Return of the Tiger has a phoenix-like power. Even if you haven’t meditated in ages or felt that divine, deep anima mundi connection, Asher can lead you right to the heart of it as if you never left. There’s a calm, urgent stride to this album, a sense of constant forward momentum while its stillness makes it ideal for, say, running or the gym, driving, or strutting through the park in your best plumage on a burnished autumnal day. With the deep roots of Asher’s music to hold you, there are no limits.”