Occasionally I’ll come across an album that stops the world around me when I listen to it. The music committed to that record holds a type of special magic that can’t really be explained or dissected, as any attempt pales in comparison to the art itself. What some hear as “noise”, I hear as the unlocking of the universe for the duration of time that lives between hitting play and the last note that floats along like embers of a dying fire. Albums like Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians, Terry Riley’s A Rainbow In Curved Air, JD Emmanuel’s Wizards and Jonas Munk’s Absorb Fabric Cascade are journey records. The encompass their own musical galaxies. They set fire to your imagination and pull you into these worlds of repetition, looping time, and dense atmosphere. Los Angeles-based composer and violinist Forest Walker has added to my list of big idea albums with his new release UV Sea. It’s a classical album for the modern age. At times dark and foreboding and at times sunlit and shimmering, UV Sea is a stunning LP for deep thinking and existential pondering.
So here are some things I know about Forest Walker, according to a one sheet I found on him:
Forest is a composer based in Los Angeles, California. His work focuses on deconstruction of mythologies of sound. He prefers his burgers medium rare, his TV from the year 2000 with a strong female lead, and his reverb tails a little longer than maybe he should. He holds a master’s in Composition and Music Theory from NYU and currently an engineering position at Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions.
“Deconstruction of mythologies of sound.” That’s an important thing to know, as if I’d read that prior to listening to UV Sea I would’ve assumed I was seeing pretentiousness at work. But once you hear opening track “Desert Lighthouse” you start to understand that whole “deconstruction of sound” thing pretty well. The work of Steve Reich comes to mind immediately in the piece’s opening salvo of staccato notes and drone-like bliss. There’s a beautiful mix of organic and synthetic as the song rolls along. It’s a stunning piece that feels like first light after a long night of darkness. “Amendment of Fundamental Axioms” sounds like mechanical experimentation. New age music for androids. It has sci fi elements to it, with dissonant squeals that battle against what sound like strings hanging in the air. “Saved Video of a Postcard” hints at darkness around the corner. It radiates a tempered tension. The existential equivalent of something lurking around the darkened corners, but in one’s own mind. It’s an exquisite melding of the musical forms of Philip Glass and Johnny Greenwood.
Walker composes as if there’s a scene to tell with each piece. What may come off as merely atmospheric soundscapes are far more richer than that. There’s something far more vast than that going on, and last track “Realtime Lapse” feels like this cavernous work of art. It encompasses this vast space with sound and scope. It’s thoughtful and purposeful noise. It could score the beginning of the universe, or it’s undoing both equally and perfectly.
Forest Walker’s UV Sea is another album to lose yourself in. To my ears it’s essential, forward-thinking classical music with experimental undertones. It invites you to sink into it’s drone-y spaces, both dark and light, and see how you come out the other side. You’ll be all the better for it.