Justin Walter breathes a new life in the EVI on kranky’s Unseen Forces
The EVI, or, The Electronic Valve Instrument, was developed in the ‘70s (1972 to be concise) as a perspective of the electronic music movement. A wind instrument that could control the effects of a synthesizer, it was used similarly to the configuration of a trumpet. A sister of the product was the Electronic Wind Instrument (aptly acronymed EWI) that acted like a clarinet. The EVI is the basis for Michigan trumpeter Justin Walter, who resurrected the instrument for his album Unseen Forces.
It looks and acts just like this:
Justin Walter – Western Tears
Many musicians used this instrument in a predominately jazz construct. But what Walter does is uses the instrument as a paint brush to experiment with strange science fiction sounds. That is what makes this album incredible. Once you dig deep with how musicians treated the instrument, how Walter utilizes pedals and patches with the EVI is stunning. The effects are otherworldly.
By pushing the boundaries and utilizing looping, the songs within are washed away by mood. Walter has found a way not to date his sound but push style into the future.
But let’s get to the primary source and Walter’s perspective:
“Unseen Forces is a collection of recordings that document the use of improvisation as a means to create sounds that can either function on their own or serve as the foundation of, or source material for, additional improvisation. There was a definite process used to create this music but at no point was any music ever written or composed. When putting this music together I was often aware of feelings related to density, spacing, silence, and the sense of time pulling back on itself, like trying to stretch a scene and pull on it in ways that distort it ever so slightly. This is a record of melodies, alone and in complex relation. This music is a reflection of both feeling, and thought, as much construction as composition. The recordings of the EVI, as well as the sequencing done using samples of those recordings, are mostly the result of exploring melody through intuition. Harmonically simple, but with a complex pallet of texture.“
By doing this, I listen to the album on repeat and gain a shifting consciousness with these collection of sounds. I may experience the Harold Budd-esque title track with one level of understanding. But when it comes back around, I experience the song in a completely different light. That is how this album works and it is nothing short of brilliant.
How Walter has utilized jazz in this minimalist ambient planet filled with seamless contrasts and no restraints. This is exactly how jazz should be explored. Because, with Justin Walter, there are never any constraints.