Trumpeter Justin Walter is mostly known through his works in experimental jazz/fusion collective NOMO, his collaboration with Brian Case (of Disappears) in Bambi Kino Duo, and his contribution to works of His Name Is Alive and Colin Stetson. What is constant in all these instances, is the depth of his exploratory playing, something that whets the appetite in seeing him venture on a solo work. Under his own name he has had a couple of releases, in the Lullabies & Nightmares record and the Dark Matter EP, but it is Unseen Forces where he sets out to complete a record solely on his own.
Unseen Forces centers around the explorations of the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument,) a very rare wind-controlled analogy synthesizer, some could call an artifact, from the '70s, which is extremely effective in texture generation and sonic weaving. On its own the analog synth produces a wide range of aural manifestations, ranging from the grainy introduction of noise in “Sixty” to the delicate percussive sounds of “It's Not What You Think,” always uncanny in its ability in frequency morphing.
Between Walter's trumpet playing and the EVI, Unseen Forces becomes a work of subtle improvisation. Jazz as music comes in a multitudes of flavors, and improvisational elements might appear chaotic and extreme at time, focusing on technicality and precision. But, there is another face in improv music, one that grows smoothly with the emotion of the artists, arriving with more feeling than purpose, as the bluesy tone of the title track lets on. The versatility of Walter plunges the listener into this sea of emotions, creating abstract settings and unreal worlds, but also moving to a few more upbeat and energetic pathways. It is the coalition of these two aspects that offers a better insight, when the bombastic and abrupt synth sounds meet the moving trumpet, creating a mesmerizing sonic dissonance in “Sixty.”
When describing the record Walter uses the motto: “Harmonically simple, but with a complex pallet of texture.” Perfectly described, this record is a testament that one does not need to appear flamboyant to impress, excellency can come through subtlety in equal measure. What Walter understands is the simple truth that instruments are means to a specific end: expression. The sonic exploration in which he sets out is efficient in exploring the emotional spectrum. Listening to tracks like “Isotope” and “Following” it is difficult not to revel in the effectiveness of the technique, and even when these come in a more dissonant and abrupt tone in “Soft Illness,” he always finds a way to resolve them into something beautiful.
8.1 / 10
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