Grammy-nominated Reggae artist Matisyahu has officially announced his sixth studio album, Undercurrent, which is set to release on May 19th via Thirty Tigers. Undercurrent is musically Matisyahu’s most courageous release to date and lyrically his most vulnerable. Nearly thirteen years after the release of his first studio record, Matisyahu and his band have done something unmatched in his past repertoire.
Touching on the significance of this new recording experience, Matisyahu explains. “This is the first album I’ve made that is produced by myself and the band with out any outside forces involved. It’s my baby. No compromises, full artistic integrity.”
The vulnerability felt throughout the lyrical narrative comes from acceptance in uncertainty. The first single from the album, “Step Out Into The Light”, sets the tone for the record, as Matisyahu delves into a musical reframing of the Jewish philosophical differences between the constant of faith (‘Emunah’) and the immediacy of trust (‘Bitachon’).
Regarding this framework Matisyahu reflects, “Emunah is nothing more than an understanding that God runs the world and is part of the world in every way and in every dimension. Bitachon is a trust or reliance in God (or friends, family, etc.) for your own personal journey through this world. Someone can intellectually understand or emotionally have faith that the world is beyond the self, but still have no trust that world cares at all about his own personal life and journey. I.e. One can have emunah but no bitachon.
The courage in the music comes from trust. Trust in the band, and only in the band. There are no post-production bells and whistles or litany of special guests on Undercurrent. The band improvised for hours in the studio with Matisyahu watching on as an admirer without singing a single lyric. Out of the improvisations grew melodic themes, rhythmic peaks and valleys, blissful and proto-song guitar passages, deep dub meditations and ultimately an inspired instrumental record until itself. Only once the band had crafted this musical narrative, did Matisyahu begin to work on a lyrical narrative of his own.
The level of interplay between Matisyahu and his band mates on Undercurrent is unquestionable – with each replay, the album reveals a guitar line from longtime guitarist, Aaron Dugan, which elevates a vocal melody that only 15 years of experience together can achieve. Keyboard patterns from BigYuki unrealized in a previous listen connect one song to another and the full band improvisations with Dub Trio bassist and drummer Stu Brooks and Joe Tomino climax with an impressive exploratory section on the record’s final track “Driftin’”.
With this album, Matisyahu and his band have achieved a musical retelling of the Matisyahu story that explores the forces within that inspire us all, challenge us all, break us down, lift us up, and yet are rarely obvious to the outside observer.
Ultimately, Undercurrent is a fully realized concept album crafted by a band-of-brothers who have learned to hold a conversation that is both comforting and challenging at the same time. It plays like a revelatory session with a great psychotherapist.
The visual component of Undercurrent falls into the same level of exploration and creativity, as Matisyahu explains, “Artist/designer Joey Bayer created the cover art and comic to follow based on fantasy versions of the band members and myself. At times during shows I’ve found myself lost in trance where the band becomes a unit of spiritual warriors fighting to free the souls of the youth. We’ve created all of the album art around this fantasy.”
Matisyahu’s upcoming album Undercurrent is set to release on May 19th! For more information, please click here.