Justin Walter - Unseen Forces

by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:8 Release Date:2017-04-21

Being of certain, should I say, ‘mature age’ I was the audio witness (and music magazine reader) at a time when Brian Eno’s fledgling EG label presented a series of ambient works, then simply called electronic music. Quite a few of these, along with Eno’s solo stuff, like Harold Budd’s and Jon Hassel’s albums to many came as a surprise. Some of them were improvisations, others presented structured pieces, but at that time to many, it sounded like a novelty that will soon fade away. Of course, now we now better, ambient music, as the general term goes these days, is neither a surprise anymore, nor did it fade away. It even has sub-groups under that heading like minimal, soundscapes, you can probably name at least ten more.

One of the reasons I mentioned Eno’s EG label is the work of trumpet player Jon Hassel, who had a distinctive playing style, coming up with a distinctive sound, since he played his trumpet through his nose, creating very exotic, should we use the more modern term, soundscapes. And here’s where American trumpet player Justin Walter and his new album “Unseen Forces” come in. No, Walter, neither plays through his nose nor is he a Hassel imitator. He does use a special device to process his trumpet sounds and other called Evil (electronic Valve Instrument), which is an analog synthesizer from the Seventies controlled by the wind. The only other musician currently still using this ‘contraption’ is the legendary jazz sax player Marshall Allen who became the leader of Arkestra after Sun Ra departed us.

What Walter has come up with on “Unseen Forces” (no wonder this one is on the Kranky label) is an interesting combination - his improvised soundscapes do have certain structure - he starts off with an idea, but doesn’t meander endlessly without an idea where he is going to end up. The bits of pieces from which each tune is constructed always end up forming meaningful music. In that manner, he has also, in a way, combined the concepts of two above mentioned artists that recorded for EG, Jon Hassel, and Harold Budd, you get exotic improvised sounds that do have structure.

Of course, these days ambient music with or without jazz overtones like Walter’s (take a pick from any of the artists on the current ECM label roster, or try, for example, the Norwegian trumpet player Are Henricksen), but he can easily be put into the category of musicians who are producing something interesting and very, very listenable. This one is for very late nights or very early mornings.

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