Unseen Forces by Justin Walter

Release date: April 21, 2017
Label: Kranky

Across the Kranky record label, there’s often been a varied and eclectic mix of bands and artists exploring ambient music, post rock and improvisation. It’s resulted in such a wide variety of different kinds of albums, all of which have been their own experience in some way or another. Whilst some are regrettably forgettable, others have stood out as incredibly delightful albums that leave you wanting more, only for you to find that they’d only released one record on the label! Of course, we’re talking about Justin Walter here, whose 2013 effort Lullabies And Nightmares was a wonderful effort of ambient expression building up on elements of improvisation with hints of jazz.. Now, some 4 years later, we are presented with the stunningly beautiful follow up Unseen Forces.

On his sophomore effort for the Kranky label, Walter once again builds up from experiments in improvisation, this time though with the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument). From here, Walter guides the music by building up from what he has established, introducing elements of trumpets and electronics to craft together the album itself. It all moves seamlessly and effortlessly, gently pulling us into a world that feels incredibly pastoral, full of opaque colours where the detail is hidden behind veils of electronic hums and droning trumpets. It’s a wonderful album experience, one that is so easy to get lost within time and time again. There’s a wonderful atmosphere and presence to the whole album, one that glides from track to track, keeping you enveloped in its fuzzy and gorgeous world.

Whilst Unseen Forces at times feels rooted in the aesthetics of ambient music at times, utilizing the slow passages of drone music to marvellous effect, it draws much more out of the genre by including many different techniques. Large clusters of electronic elements burst into the scene with such phenomenal presence, sounding almost sudden and intense, yet perfectly falling into the whole scene and sounding perfect in shaping the character’s tone and timbre. Whilst much of the work or aesthetics feels previously explored on Lullabies and Nightmares, it all feels much more wonderfully refined on Unseen Forces, showing a vast and strong leap forward for Walter.

Walter has presented an album that feels incredibly enticing and intoxicating, as it draws you into such a serene world full of amazing presence, that you sometimes can’t help but allow yourself to be pulled back into it all over again. Walter has brought so much out from his techniques, creating an album that feels so incredibly well refined and structured, that it’s improvisational roots seem to be a red herring almost (though they are there all the same!). With now two incredibly strong albums released on the Kranky label, Walter has positioned himself as one of the one’s to really keep an eye on, and anticipate future releases from, with Unseen Forces just perhaps being a new favourite release from such an extensive label.

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