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Chosen One: Justin Walter

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The music itself comes to light more like finding sea shells on the ocean floor with your eyes closed.”

—Justin Walter

Words: Mark Carry

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Angelic piano tones reverberate softly into the ether on the album’s glorious title-track. Gradually, synth bass elements coalesce together: a diffusion of sumptuous layers before heavenly trumpet passages form ripples in the pools of your mind. The immense sonic journey of  ‘Unseen Forces’ is encapsulated in some otherworldly realm; lost to the constraints of time that ceaselessly grows in meaning and significance. Michigan trumpeter Justin Walter has forged another timeless sound world  with his sophomore full length ‘Unseen Forces’ – and follow-up to the sublime debut ‘Lullabies & Nightmares’ – released on the ever-dependable Chicago-based Kranky label.

Divine sonic tapestries are masterfully forged across the album’s nine exceptional tracks, with intricate layers of electronics and trumpet. Walter’s trusted EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) is a rare wind-controlled analog synthesizer from the 70’s that forms an integral foundation to the music’s visionary dimension. The opener ‘1001’ reveals the delicate beauty of these drifting synthesizer melodies that lies somewhere between Boards of Canada and the ECM’s rich discography. Bass notes are masterfully added two minutes in, creating a powerful, unequivocal force, reminiscent of Kranky alumni Tim Hecker or A Winged Victory For The Sullen.

Dark, menacing electronics are fused with radiant light of trumpet melodies on the utterly compelling ‘Sixty’, an exploration into the heart of darkness. The dichotomy of light and dark is forever inherent across Walter’s shape-shifting works where the radiant light of hope glows like stars dotted across night skies. An inner dialogue is created between the electronic and organic components, forming a deeply-affecting experience in the process. Take for example, ‘It’s Not What You Think’. The striking intensity unleashed by hypnotic swells of synthesizers is contrasted with ethereal ambient soundscapes of faded dreams. Music, like the brush strokes of a painter, is constructed by masterful use of texture and colour. As the track builds, the frenetic energy of Colin Stetson and Ben Frost is emitted amidst a dark, repeating pattern.

The album’s penultimate track ‘Soft Illness’ bears the sound of a producer more so than anything else: swirls of noise crafts a captivating electronic sphere of sound. The length of the individual tracks in part B are significantly shortened, further adding to the nearness of the approaching horizon. ‘Following’ is a soul-stirring lament that feels like a lost synth pop gem from another space and time. ‘Red Cabin’ encapsulates the rich textures of dreams, in one aching gradual pulse.

‘Unseen Forces’ is out now on Kranky.

http://www.justinwalter.net/

http://www.kranky.net/

justin

 

Interview with Justin Walter.

Congratulations Justin on the stunningly beautiful new sophomore release ‘Unseen Forces’, a collection of music that truly transports the listener to another realm. I’d love for you to discuss the making of the new record and particularly how your approach may have developed or changed from that of the remarkable 2013 debut ‘Lullabies & Nightmares’?

Justin Walter: Well first off, thank you. The biggest factor that changed was time. With ‘Lullabies & Nightmares‘ I just went full in and recorded the album in a few months. The process was a continuous push from start to finish that took about 9 months. It should also be noted that I didn’t really have any set voice or aesthetic that I was attached to at that time. Almost all of the work I had been doing with the EVI and trumpet sat as one offs or groupings of songs that happened within a short period of time, sort of like free form journal entries. When ‘Dream Weaving‘ was recorded, which was fairly early on, I decided to try and stick with material that felt along those lines, but it was all still very new to me. I think that ‘Mind Shapes‘ was the last piece I put together and in that there was a strong intent to make something that spoke to the rest of the material on the album. With ‘Unseen Forces‘ though, I spent a lot more time considering the overall meaning of the record. The process for coming up with the material was very much the same, but I wanted to find a cohesive musical language that would be the same throughout, and a more focused emotional message. So it took a lot longer to put together. Mostly because I don’t actually write any of the music.

Please discuss the art of improvisation and the mindset and methodologies you have developed over the years when it comes to creating these otherworldly ambient explorations?

JW: I suppose improvisation isn’t what most people think it is. It’s more like talking. So you have this musical language which you spend years learning and refining, and within itself there can be dialog, but the overall message is just emotional. It happens in real time, and so it’s a journey from one statement to the next and so on and by travelling along you can tell a story of sorts. But if you were to just pull out one piece from the middle it would probably lose all of its meaning. So the language that I have is mostly based in jazz, but over time I’ve also been developing this other language which is based on texture and sequencing. It’s about feel and spacing more than it is about notes and harmony.

Creating these recordings has mostly been the same process over and over. It involves improvisation, but more importantly it requires a strong sense of emotion. And not like crying emotion or anything like that, but just the feeling of yourself in a total way. So it’s always key to be in touch and have an intense sense of yourself when you spend time doing these things. After all, the idea here is to convey through music this story of yourself. So that’s a part of the methodology. The music itself comes to light more like finding sea shells on the ocean floor with your eyes closed. I’m just trying to feel for the good ones and after I collect a bunch I bring them up and see if I actually got anything worth saving. So the feeling and collecting process is very important and after a while you get a little bit better at it, but you still can’t see what you’re doing.

The sonic palette utilized on ‘Unseen Forces’ is your trusted EVI, wind-controlled analog synthesizer combined with electronics and trumpet tapestries that coalesce together forming sprawling soundscapes of utterly transcendent moments. As this new record is even more of a solo effort than its predecessor (with added percussion/drums in places), I’d love for you to discuss the starting points or genesis of these new solo works? Did you have certain reference points in mind? Also, it feels as if there’s this chain reaction of inner dialogue (of the deepest kind) as one listens to the unfolding of the seamless array of patterns inherent in these compositions. Would these tracks be first takes, so to speak? 

JW: One of the shifts I’ve made over the last few years is to see myself as more of a producer, if that’s the right term. I produce myself. Which is weird. So I set out to create and collect all of these sounds, and then I bring them to myself, and I say this one stays and these go. And so for that part of myself that is deciding how to place these things, there was a process of growth and refinement that is still taking place. When A Winged Victory for the Sullen came out with ATOMOS I remember listening to that every day and thinking to myself holly shit. And I realize I’m fairly ignorant when it comes to contemporary music, so I’m not really hip to all that is out there, but I love that record. And so I sat with it for a long time. It was sort of a pointer for me. I’m not sure what process Adam and Dustin use to write music, but it’s spot on and I wanted to bring as much of that language into myself as possible. So that was one starting point in terms of spacing, texture and colour.

Another starting point was Tim Hecker, who creates music that just pisses me off in the best way. These are guys I had never heard of before L&N and they, along with a few others, helped shape my decision making process when it came to the production side of things. In terms of inner dialogue, yes. I spent a lot of time sitting with these songs as they developed and it was very important to me that they told a continuous story. These are first takes and layered first takes. I didn’t re-record anything for this album, it’s all just live recordings. It’s one of the reasons it took me so long to make this record – most of what I do doesn’t work out.

The album’s title-track is one of the pinnacles of this enriching journey. It’s the space and dimension a track such as this permeates and orbits, for me is the towering essence of this beautiful music. Can you recount your memories of creating ‘Unseen Forces’ and indeed how the piece evolved and bloomed into its final entity? The sonic canvas and various components of your sound are wonderfully utilized and expressed here, it’s such a captivating experience. The title too embodies the music so perfectly, is there a story or background to choosing of this particular (song/album) title?

JW: I had gone to Chicago to my friend Erik Hall’s place. He’s helped in recording and mixing this, and almost all of my records. He had just inherited his families Steinway grand piano and we were both fairly excited to be in the presence of such an incredible instrument. It seems ridiculous, but the title track was recorded in three passes, basically back to back with no planning what so ever. I played some open chords, which is what you hear at the beginning of the song. Then sampled and sequenced those chords in a way that was extremely random. We recorded a pass of that sequence and I decided to add a synth bass part with the EVI. That ended up being mostly in 4/4 time because, well that’s what I do. So after that I did a pass with the trumpet. That was it in terms of recording. Now there was a lot of time spent mixing and I did record the sequenced piano track through a tape delay a few months later to have that in the mix as well. I also spent a bit of time adding parts to it and then taking them away, and finally just decided that the best thing to do would be to just leave it as it is. I think that in recording the way we did, there just wasn’t time to think about what to do, and so even though it was three separate passes, it still had the spontaneity of a live performance. There’s playfulness in that that you just can’t write out.

You are part of the immense Sorrow Ensemble, Colin Stetson’s latest project. As you tour on this record and play with these musicians, I can only imagine how inspiring and fulfilling this experience must be? Can you shed some light on the dynamics of this group and what you feel you are learning from Colin Stetson, someone obviously who has served as a long-term inspirational figure?

JW: Well, being a part of this group has been a dream come true. Throughout the span of this project it has always been extremely clear that Colin has had a vision and sense of purpose in choosing to recreate this amazing piece of music. He’s lead the group like general on the battlefield. All of the members are amazing musicians in their own right and there was always an openness to the way we formed and contributed to the orchestration as it developed, but it’s really been a pleasure to work with someone who sees clearly what the final outcome should be. In working with large groups like this it can be easy to sway in the wind a bit in terms of direction, everyone having their own ideas about what should be what, and Stetson has managed this in amazing form and with the best leadership imaginable. It also helps that everyone chosen to be a part of this group has a huge sense of selflessness and are just interested in making great music. So we work together and listen to each other and make it happen.

In the nature of improvisation and the “first thought add ons” (you previously described to me) inherent in your trumpet-based works, I presume quite a significant of happy accidents occur as the album is being made/recorded? I would love to know more about your studio set-up and indeed the challenges you face when it comes to capturing these takes onto the final recordings? Is mixing a part of the process that takes you longer to complete?

JW: Yep. Fail, fail, and fail again. But actually one of the things I’ve come to accept is that I can’t do this every day. You really do need to be in the right space to sit down and get an amazing first take, or be able to see that what you have is something you want to keep working on. Mixing is something I’ve spent a ton of time on. I went from knowing how to record in garage band in 2011 to feeling like there wasn’t that much left for me to discover in protools in 2016. So there was a huge amount of learning that happened over these past few years. I do have a “studio” at home which serves my needs just fine. I have a walk up attic that is very dead in terms of sound bouncing around and so I use that space to mix in. It gets me to about 95%, and the rest I can do in a real studio. Mixing and also sequencing of material is time consuming, you’re making decisions and putting things together that can sometimes feel like you’re playing 6 games of Tetris at the same time. How the side chain compression is working, how the tracks are duplicated and spit up for eq, and how all of the layers are interacting with each other. It’s is a fun game.

The spirit of Arthur Russell and Boards of Canada beautifully drift by on the sublime ‘It’s Not What You Think’, a piece that epitomizes the adventurous spirit of the album but also the sense of new ground and departures from the debut. Please also discuss the sequencing of the record, it works very well how there are several much shorter pieces – or crystallized gems – interspersed with the sprawling ambient cuts. 

JW: I wanted the opening to set the mood for the whole record, to let the listener know that this would be a slower journey. ‘It’s Not What You Think‘ formed over the summer of 2016. It was the final piece of music I put together for this record and yes, BoC. Love those guys. I do love Arthur Russell but honestly it’s been a long time for me. I think I was mostly focused on having this dark and repetitive line that was strong and forceful. Again, when the bass line comes in on ATOMOS it’s like, hell yes. Love that. And so for me this was my reflection of that. It’s less frills and more meat. I also wanted to speak to the vinyl record format, and so bookended each side with two halves of the same piece. “End of Six” and “Red Cabin” originally were one continuous recording that took place at the very end of a 45 improvisation, the Sixth one of that day. The sequencing of songs took a while. There’s room to breathe after the intense cuts, but not in a way that kills the forward momentum. The overall shape of the record is from low to high and back in a gradual way that hopefully lets you listen to the album on repeat without getting burnt out. That was one of my goals.

What do you feel has been the most invaluable lesson you have learned or that previous experiences have taught you? Can you recall your memories of first being given the trumpet and how you feel you have developed your own distinct musical language with the EVI instrumentation that is integral to your solo works?

JW: Definitely that taking time is totally OK. I’ve never really made a living as a musician, I mean there have been stretches were I’m making great money and then it’s all over. So I’ve grown to be OK with that and actually cherish the fact that I don’t have to do this. In no way is it covering the cost of time put in, it’s just about the art. So if it takes forever, it’s worth it. In the end it’s about trying to make something that you yourself find value in, and hopefully other people will find value in it as well. So it’s super important to take as much time as you need. Once it’s out, it’s done forever.

Louis Smith gave me my first trumpet. I was 10. It was actually a cornet. I’ve always been involved in the jazz community as a trumpeter. Currently I play a few nights a week with different groups here in Ann Arbor, it’s great. Everything from new music, free jazz, Joe Henderson, Coltrane, all the way back to Bix and Morton. We cover the whole lineage. With that, I think I’ve settled down into feeling more secure with who I am and were I sit within the community. The music itself is always new and its very nature is exploratory, so there’s always anticipation for me. As far as this project goes, the trumpet has drifted between being something more akin to a layer of sound, and at times a melodic voice. I really don’t think about it too much, it’s just what comes to mind. It wouldn’t make any sense to just start playing bebop lines, I mean, maybe? Not what I’m hearing though. The EVI is a totally different beast and its language and the way I use it to create soundscapes is one that mostly exists here in my house. It seems that over time I’ve become less interested in what the EVI can do and more interested in how I can use what it does to convey emotion. It’s always fun to sit down and play the instrument, but I’ve been spending less and less time just messing around with it in a random way.

‘Unseen Forces’ is out now on Kranky.

http://www.justinwalter.net/

http://www.kranky.net/

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August 3, 2017 at 10:09 pm

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S02E06 | June mix

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fracturedair_june17

 

June’s mixtape features a first listen of “Golden Plover”, Glasgow’s finest Trembling Bells’ stunning cover of the Bert Jansch song taken from his 1979 avian-themed classic “Avocet”. The track is part of the special 4-track EP “Avocet Revisited”, commissioned and issued by Fire Records’ imprint Earth Recordings, featuring: Trembling Bells; Edwyn Collins and Carwyn Ellis; Modern Studies; Alasdair Roberts.
On “Golden Plover”, Trembling Bells are joined by Callum Calderwood (violin), Rory Haye (vocals), Andrew Pattie (vocals) and Belle & Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson (12 string guitar). “Avocet Revisited” will be released by Earth Recordings on the 11th of August 2017.

One of the UK’s finest indie bands The Clientele return with “Music for the Age of Miracles” (Merge Records) this Autumn, their first new album in seven years. Thus far the irresistible lead single “Lunar Days” has been unveiled, finding the beloved Alasdair MacLean-led band in typically impeccable form, effortlessly fusing a myriad of influences into miniature pop marvels like only they can.

June’s mixtape also features new releases from: Ariel Pink’s new single “Another Weekend”, from the hugely anticipated forthcoming Mexican Summer album “Dedicated to Bobby Jameson”; Grizzly Bear’s “Painted Ruins”, one of 2017’s most eagerly anticipated albums and follow-up to 2012’s sonic marvel “Shields”; Renowned Irish contemporary classical collective Crash Ensemble release their glorious “Ghosts” album – featuring compositions written by Nico Muhly, Donnacha Dennehy and Valgeir Sigurðsson – which is released via Icelandic independent Bedroom Community.

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S02E06 | June mix

 

To listen on La Blogothèque:

http://www.blogotheque.net/2017/06/29/fractured-air-x-blogotheque-s02e06-june-mix/

 

01. Virginia Woolf“I. Mrs. Dalloway: Words” (Deutsche Grammophon)
02. The Beacon Sound Choir“Can’t Wrap My Head Around It” (First Terrace)
03. Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly & James McAlister“Neptune” (4AD)
04. Crash Ensemble “Past Tundra” (Bedroom Community)
05. Fleet Foxes“I Should See Memphis” (Nonesuch)
06. Trembling Bells“Golden Plover” (Earth Recordings)
07. The Clientele“Lunar Days” (Merge)
08. Bill MacKay“Aster” (Drag City)
09. Ariel Pink“Another Weekend” (Mexican Summer)
10. Justin Walter“Red Cabin” (Kranky)
11. Chromatics“Shadow” (Italians Do It Better)
12. Tobias Bernstrup “27” (12” Version) (Dark Entries)
13. John Talabot“Destiny” (Rave Dub Version) (Permanent Vacation)
14. Daphni“Face to Face” (fabric)
15. Blondes“KDM” (R&S)
16. Laurel Halo“Moontalk” (Hyperdub)
17. Alice Coltrane“Rama Guru” (Luaka Bop)
18. Belbury Poly“The Geography” (Ghost Box)
19. BADBADNOTGOOD“Lavender” (feat. KAYTRANADA & Snoop Dogg) [Nightfall Remix] (Innovative Leisure)
20. Grizzly Bear“Three Rings” (RCA)
21. The Focus Group“The Leaving” (Ghost Box)
22. Gorillaz“Let Me Out” (feat. Mavis Staples & Pusha T) (Parlophone)
23. Aretha Franklin“This Little Light of Mine” (Remember)
24. Philippe Hallais“Hero (Theme)” (Modern Love)
25. Oliver Coates“Peace” (Foom)
26. Radiohead“I Promise” (XL Recordings)
27. Murcof & Vanessa Wagner“Spiegel Im Spiegel” (InFiné)

Compiled by Fractured Air, June 2017. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

http://www.blogotheque.net/
https://fracturedair.com/

Step Right Up: Justin Walter

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Interview with Justin Walter.

“A lot of what is happening here is more a response, or reaction to what first took place. Sometimes it’s a very intentional response, and other times it’s a mix of intention and chance.”

—Justin Walter

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

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Released on the world-renowned Kranky label last year, Justin Walter’s ‘Lullabies & Nightmares’ LP heralded a new and singular voice in ambient music exploration and contemporary music as a whole. The Brooklyn-based, Michigan-bred artist and composer creates utterly captivating, multi-layered compositions, primarily based on the Electronic Valve Instrument and held sounds of the trumpet. In addition, windswept layers of electronics and kalimba are wonderfully interwoven in the music’s rich tapestry. Having been a trusted companion this past year, ‘Lullabies and Nightmares’ endlessly reveals new insights and meaning upon every visit. Walter’s dreamlike tour-de-force is a resolutely unique record from a highly gifted composer and musician.

Walter was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the United States. His most recent explorations are centered around the Electronic Valve Instrument, a rare wind controlled analog synthesizer. Prior to the latest Kranky full-length release, Walter released two (equally) exceptional musical projects on the Life Like label: 2012’s ‘WALTER’ double cassette and the ‘Dark Matter’ 12″ later in 2013. Justin Walter is also the longtime member of renowned Michigan-based eight-piece NOMO — signed to the Ubiquity label — whose visceral and energetic rhythms are influenced by such diverse sources as free jazz, Afrobeat, street performing artists such as the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and post-rock luminaries such as Tortoise. Additionally, Walter has also worked with numerous bands and artists over the last decade including: Iron & Wine, Wild Belle, His Name is Alive, Saturday Looks Good to Me, Skeletons, Megan Byrne and Randy Napoleon.

About the making of ‘Lullabies & Nightmares’, Walter has previously stated:

“I set out to record an album of completely improvised music that fused my experiments with the Electronic Valve Instrument and my love of held sounds on the trumpet. In recent years I’ve come to see the trumpet as an instrument that speaks in slow and long sounds, with meaning coming from the shape and inflection of each note. The process for this was fairly straight forward, record lots of improvisations. Of the songs on the album, most are one take improvisations with the only overdubs being drums.”

The enlightening world of ‘Lullabies & Nightmares’ represents the latest chapter in this special composer’s journey as boundaries are blurred between the organic and synthetic — light and dark — across the album’s eleven heavenly tracks. While Walter quietly weaves his singular art and navigates his own personal dreams and nightmares across ‘Lullabies & Nightmares’, he manages to conjure up and confront both our brightest of hopes and darkest of fears in the process.

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Interview with Justin Walter.

Congratulations on the stunning debut album ‘Lullabies And Nightmares’. You set out to create an album of completely improvised music with the fusion of your experimentation with the Electronic Valve Instrument and held sounds of the trumpet. The results are staggering where a dreamy, surreal atmosphere is captured that effortlessly fuses light and dark textures. Please discuss for me the process involved in recording these compositions and how you have developed your unique blend of improvised music?

JW: Thanks Mark. The process I used to record most of this material was fairly straight forward. I’ve found over the years that when I write something and then go to record it, it never quite sounds how I imagined it, or intended it to sound. And so with this, the process involves either first take improvisations, or first thought add ons. A lot of what is happening here is more a response, or reaction to what first took place. Sometimes it’s a very intentional response, and other times it’s a mix of intention and chance. On some of the songs, you can hear a simple melody at first, the rest of the song is created by sampling and sequencing this melody and then manipulating that material to create form, tension, variation and so on. Most of the time it ends up being something that I’m not really interested in aesthetically. I’d say that the music that made it to the album represents around 10% of what was recorded. I wasn’t really interested in going in and making things happen after the fact, or even composing anything for that matter. I’ve been recording music in my bedroom this way for a long time and I find that the real spark for me comes on a first take. There’s something that’s tangible, a risk and a sense of truth when you just play what you’re feeling. But, like I said, most of the time it’s just this process of trying. It’s a long process this way, learning ways over time to direct things, but still failing most of the time.

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You have been intensively exploring the EVI, a 1980’s synthesizer/horn hybrid. This instrument forms the intricate framework to ‘Lullabies And Nightmares’. Take me back to first discovering the EVI; your fascination and love for this particular instrument, and the possibilities sought?

JW: Initially I sought to play it like a trumpet, linearly. It’s very hard to do that and I gave up even trying a long time ago. There are some great players out there though that have put in the time and can really get around on the instrument. What became fascinating for me was when I first realized that the underlying structure that the instrument operates on is not really like a trumpet at all, or any instrument for that matter. It’s very easy to play a simple melody and alter the melody up and down 4ths, 5ths, and octaves in a way that seems more intuitive that conscious. And with the exception of a couple notes, moving around in 4ths, 5ths, and octaves generally sounds really good. So you can alter, or embellish melodies while playing them and not lose sight of the basic melody in your head. This would be impossible to do on most instruments. This was sort of the beginning for me and from there it became more about what I wanted to do with that, in terms of saying something that means something.

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I must say the intricate detail and range of instrumentation — the fusion of the synthetic and analogue — creates a deeply immersive journey that becomes more meaningful each time I venture down ‘Lullabies And Nightmares’. For example, I love the use of live drums (Quinn Kirchner) on certain tracks (‘Plastic People’, in particular) and the pristine production by Erik Hall. Can you talk me through the challenges (if any) of capturing the special spark of spontaneity as you added layers of instrumentation to these tracks, and the complexity that must be involved when fusing electronic elements and acoustic sounds of trumpet into a composition?

JW: I’ve been playing with Quinn for a number of years now and I knew that having him come over and put his voice on what we (Erik Hall and myself) had been working on would be great. At the time, we didn’t have anything finished, just a ton of one takes, most of which ended up in the trash. Quinn must have played on 12 songs or something. I spent a number of weeks going through what had been recorded and basically picked out what I wanted to use. There’s definitely an intent there. Layers, tape echo layers, all sorts of top secret drum stuff. 🙂

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The title for me is such a fitting testament to the record’s sonic journey: it really captures the ethereal, mysterious atmosphere (that is brilliantly sustained throughout the eleven tracks) and the wonderful contrast between light and dark. Please discuss the title choice and indeed, the themes of ‘Lullabies And Nightmares’ and what it means for you? I simply love how you feel an out-pour of emotion being unleashed from the sonic timbres and textures across the record’s awe-inspiring sonic terrain.

JW: Thanks Mark. The title is really just about life. Sometimes it’s really great and other times it’s really bad. So there wasn’t really any decision made about having an album with titles that were about dreaming or anything like that. It must have just been were my head was. All of the songs were titles with the first thing that came to my mind, and that was that. ‘Sister Sleeper’, for example. I’m not sure what that means, but the words popped in my head and I liked the imagery they created and so that was that.

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My personal favourite must be the album’s title-track. I have listened to this sprawling opus innumerable times, and still find new meanings and hidden details. The moment that layers of uplifting brass sounds arrive into the forefront of the mix is nothing short of breathtaking. The song is built on several distinct movements, I feel, where a wonderful dynamic and feel is forever sweeping before your eyes. Can you shine some light on this piece please, Justin? Which parts first came into the picture and how did you manage to coalesce it together in the end? It’s a stunning tour de force.

JW: The opening bit was recorded in the first few days at Erik’s place in Chicago. It was just another take, if I remember correctly it was the 11th take we did. From that I did a pass with the sequencer and that was the form. I had a few beers and did a pass with the trumpet. Had a few more beers and did a pass with the EVI and then the next day added on some horn section style parts. I agree that in looking at it first and all at once, it seems fairly epic, but it’s really just a few first takes that are all responding to the thing that came before them. I don’t know how it happened and I’m not sure I can recreate it. I do know that I wanted it to be simple and beautiful and that’s what I tried to do.

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I love the held sounds of the trumpet. It reminds me of Colin Stetson’s work and some of the releases from the ECM label. Can you recount for me your memories of first playing the trumpet and how your technique has developed?

JW: My first trumpet was given to me by Louis Smith. He’s a great Blue Note recording artist and a wonderful man. I’d say that early on I was mostly influenced by him and the more traditional jazz icons. I wanted to play like Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis. I wasn’t really that great of a trumpet player though, so I tried really really hard and often did more damage than good. I moved to New York to study with Laurie Frink, who just passed, and she helped me figure out how to play the trumpet. Now I really do know how to play the trumpet exactly how I want to play it, and it’s really fun for me. After spending most of my life trying really hard to become great at something, I’d say that now I really don’t think about it too much. It’s definitely freed me up to pursue things like this. But yeah, at first it was Miles Davis and Bebop, now it’s just whatever comes to mind.

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‘Lullabies And Nightmares’ is home to the peerless independent Chicago-based music label, kranky. This in itself is a fitting testament to the music you have created. That must have been quite an honour? What records and, indeed, composers/artists have inspired you significantly in the pursue of your own art would you say, Justin?

JW: It is an honour. The label puts out amazing music. For this recording I was mostly inspired by Colin Stetson.

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Interviewing Koen Holtkamp of Mountains earlier in the year, he explained, when discussing the music-making process: “…allowing for more experimentation in the studio and letting things find their place versus having a preconceived notion of what we wanted to do beforehand.” I imagine the former is (more) the case for ‘Lullabies And Nightmares’? Also, have the pieces you have composed been fully realized in your mind prior to the recording/producing/mixing stage of the album? Or are you very much open to changes at this point due to the nature of improvised music?

JW: A bit of both. There’s magic in an improvisation, but sometimes, if it so close and just needs a nudge then it’s time to nudge. I had no idea what I was going to play until the moment I played it.

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What is next for you, Justin? How do you envision the follow-up to ‘Lullabies And Nightmares’ to sound like? Any other projects on the horizon?

JW: I’ve been working on a lot of new music. It’s really just what I do when I get off work. I’m working on things in a similar way, but this time it seems to be darker and more complex. A lot of material I’ll spend a month or two with and then just let it go. It’s the process of creating and looking for new sounds. I’m not sure when my next album will be done, right now it feels like I’m working on a series of paintings all at the same time and none of them are finished. It’s not a bad place to be.

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‘Lullabies & Nightmares’ is available now on Kranky.

http://www.justinwalter.net
http://www.kranky.net

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Written by admin

March 27, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Fractured Air 05: See Through Love (A Mixtape by Justin Walter)

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justinwaltermix_front

To listen on Soundcloud:

https://soundcloud.com/fractured_air/fractured-air-05-see-through

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This year Justin Walter (longtime Nomo member) released his magnificent debut LP “Lullabies and Nightmares” on the world-renowned Chicago-based independent label Kranky. The following is how Justin Walter describes the album:
“I set out to record an album of completely improvised music that fused my experiments with the Electronic Valve Instrument and my love of held sounds on the trumpet. In recent years I’ve come to see the trumpet as an instrument that speaks in slow and long sounds, with meaning coming from the shape and inflection of each note. The process for this was fairly straight forward, record lots of improvisations. Of the songs on the album, most are one take improvisations with the only overdubs being drums.”
The resulting album is one of the most remarkable albums released this year. Presented here by Justin Walter is a selection of music that has influenced him: “A few pale ales later and here are some things that have inspired me.”

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Fractured Air 05: See Through Love (A Mixtape by Justin Walter)

Tracklist:

01 Sufjan Stevens – All Delighted People D Side
02 Colin Stetson – Those Who Don’t Run
03 Junip – In Every Direction
04 Boards Of Canada – Pete Standing Alone
05 Shigeto – Detroit Part 1
06 Billie Holliday – Porgy
07 Arthur Russell – See Through Love

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To listen on Soundcloud:

https://soundcloud.com/fractured_air/fractured-air-05-see-through

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The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or their respective record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

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http://www.justinwalter.net
http://www.kranky.net

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Fractured Air 05. The universe is making music all the time.

To follow Fractured Air, you can do so on Facebook here, and on Twitter here

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Written by admin

November 19, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Ten Mile Stereo

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A selection of some of the albums we’ve been listening to lately. 


Boards Of Canada “Tomorrow’s Harvest” (Warp)
In today’s day and age you may be forgiven for thinking the days of the “eagerly awaited” album is a thing of the past. However, Warp’s legendary Boards of Canada’s “Tomorrow’s Harvest” has easily been the most hotly-anticipated album in a long time. The resulting seventeen tracks presented on the “Tomorrow’s Harvest” cut confirms the legendary status of Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin’s Boards Of Canada, the Scottish electronic duo who have become a genre onto themselves at this stage.

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Justin Walter “Lullabies & Nightmares” (kranky)
One of the true musical treasures this year so far has been Brooklyn-based (born in Michigan) composer Justin Walter’s debut LP “Lullabies & Nightmares”. An album which has all the hallmarks of a work of art which has been painstakingly created over many years. In Walter’s words: “”I set out to record an album of completely improvised music that fused my experiments with the Electronic Valve Instrument and my love of held sounds on the trumpet.”

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John Lemke “People Do” (Denovali)
This July marks the release of John Lemke’s debut album “People Do”, a stunning selection crossing genres at will – encompassing all the beauty and artistry of the neoclassical realm while embodying the cool charm and electronic textures of the best in the ambient/electronic scene. Born in Berlin, Lemke currently resides in Glasgow. The album is mastered by Germany’s Nils Frahm at his Durton Studio. Also essential is Lemke’s “Walizka” EP, a digital only release to anticipate the debut full length which will be issued by the constantly innovative German-based Denovali Records.

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amiina “The Lighthouse Project” (Sound Of A Handshake)
If someone wished to find a single album to demonstrate the magical quality only music can capture (and impart) look no further than Icelandic sextet amiina’s current collection “The Lighthouse Project.” Recorded live, the album recalls the inimitable charm of early Tiersen compositions. Also features a beautiful cover of Lee Hazelwood’s “Leather and Lace”. Available on Morr Music’s Sound Of A Handshake imprint.

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Áine O’ Dwyer ” Anything bright or startling?” (Second Language)
Released by London-based Second Language at the beginning of June, “Anything bright or startling?” comprises a song cycle of fragile beauty and ambitious scope recalling the likes of Joanna Newsom and Nico. O’ Dwyer is a firmly established harpist and collaborator (Mark Fry & The A Lords, Cloisters, Piano Magic) while a collection of church organ études, “Music For Church Cleaners”, comprised O’ Dwyer’s first solo recording.

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Anika “EP” (Stones Throw)
Follow-up to much talked about debut self-titled album by Anika, produced By Portishead/Beak’s Geoff Barrow. The EP comprises an array of incredible covers (featuring The Kinks’ ‘I Go To Sleep’ and The Crystals/Phil Spector classic ‘He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss’). Aesthetically, Anika’s music takes much influence from the vintage past where the spirit of Nico particularly haunts. The highlight for me is Anika’s bold take on the Chromatics classic “In The City”, where Johnny Jewel’s über cool hit gets wonderfully deconstructed.

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Lucrecia Dalt “Commotus” (Human Ear Music)
I first came across Barcelona’s Lucrecia Dalt from her track “Silencio” where Julia Holter adds harmonium. Released by Berlin’s Human Ear Music label, “Commotus” is an album of breathtaking imagination which reveals more and more on every visit. Similar in style to such labels as RVNG INTL (Holter, Herndon) and free spirits as Dirty Beaches and Nicolas Jaar, the album reveals such diverse influences as Enio Morricone, Brian Eno, Moondog and Julianna Barwick.

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I Am The Cosmos “Monochrome” (Self-Relelased)
“Monochrome” is the debut LP from Dublin dance/electronic duo I Am The Cosmos. The album comprises an irresistibly cool, New Wave inspired late night collection recalling the many delights on the Italians Do It Better label (Chromatics, Symmetry, Desire) plus such acts as New Order and Junior Boys. A fine array of synths, drum machines and groove-heavy bass lines combine with an effortless pop sensibility and a keen penchant for melody.

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Date Palms “The Dusted Sessions” (Thrill Jockey)
Chicago’s Thrill Jockey label (home to such artists as Mountains, Stygian Stride, The Sea And Cake) issued “The Dusted Sessions” at the beginning of June. Comprising principally the duo of Kranky ambient man Gregg Kowalsky (keys, electronics) and Marielle Jacobsons (violin, flute, electronics), Date Palms effortlessly navigate a dust-swept American West across its seven pieces – recalling such luminaries as Laurie Spiegel, Ry Cooder and Alice Coltrane in the process.

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Money “The Shadow Of Heaven” (Bella Union)
Money’s debut full-length album won’t be out until August 26th, so in the meantime we can still marvel at the Manchester four-piece’s debut single release for Bella Union – “Bluebell Fields” – an irresistible gem overflowing at the brim with effortless hooks and timeless melody. Prior to the Bella Union LP “The Shadow Of Heaven” comes the single “Hold Me Forever”.

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Written by admin

June 12, 2013 at 10:20 am