Premiere: Justin Walter – “Unseen Forces”
Ann Arbor-based trumpeter and producer Justin Walter’s work has always relied on interesting tone experiments and a well-calibrated sense of scale, but his sophomore album for Kranky, Unseen Forces, pushes the extremes of that out into its own closed, interior/exterior loop. Introspection and action are just two sides of the same coin in the album’s noirish, but surprisingly colorful atmospheres, even according to Walter: “This is a record of melodies, alone and in complex relation.” There’s an oblique sense of playfulness that encourages active listening, a focal point always fleeing around a corner in one pattern of sounds or another, though the whole collection stubbornly resists all but the most discrete or mutated pangs of nostalgia. The album’s title track, streaming below, is an exemplar. Opening slowly onto a melancholy loop, the track stands out beautifully as one of the album’s most distinctive horn meditations. Built from improvisations using an EVI — or electronic valve instrument, essentially a synth for trumpet players — Unseen Forces adds up to a wonderful, jazzy-sort of kosmische “shmear,” complex but calming, and spacious enough for more or less whatever you’d like to do with it.