Justin Walter
Photo: Freddie Collins / Rarely Unable

Justin Walter Travels to the Outer Cosmos on ‘Destroyer’

Justin Walter’s Destroyer is a rich and colorful work established through subtle means. It establishes an immersive world filled with wonder and emotion.

Justin Walter
13 October 2023

Justin Walter is one of the few people on this earth capable of playing and maximizing the potential of the electronic valve instrument (EVI). These etudes on the capabilities of the EVI have become the prime subject of Walter’s solo discography, with the highlight so far being 2017’s Unseen Forces. The breadth of colors and emotions that the EVI can awaken within Walter’s shifting context is exquisite. Its navigation through dark and melancholic passages while touching upon the drone and minimal concepts forms a solid basis. At the same time, these traversals of the cosmos in a grand, over-the-top manner are achieved through subtle means. It is one of the prime examples of the “less is more” school of thought. Walter now returns to further establish this philosophy with the follow-up to Unseen Forces in Destroyer.

The foundation is unchanged as Walter shifts through all the different faces of the EVI. The minimalistic touch remains as the sparse elements of “New Pads” and its glacial progression reach great depths of nostalgia and melancholy. This is the earthy tone of Destroyer, highlighted also through the jazz themes that “Fear 17” shifts through. It naturally clicks with the electronic backbone that Walter brings in. The laidback approach of “Cliff the Cloud Catcher” establishes a primal rhythmic component, while the guitar-like lead work creates an exciting contrast. This lounge ambiance further blossoms through the delicate progression of “11.27” as the slow procession marches into an unknown space. 

While the timbre and manifestation of Destroyer become harsher, as the heavy sonic artifacts come down in the title track or the poignant percussion keeps hammering down in “For Us”, it is the dissolution that offers the more exciting pathways. The opening track introduces this approach, as the drone background squeezes the air out of the space. It is a heavy tone, yet it arrives with a soulful rendition, as heard in “Transitions”.

The interaction of this mode with an electronic touch creates another contrast for Walter, the interchangeability of these domains becoming centric in Destroyer. It also opens up this grand exploration of space and time through the EVI, reaching a cosmic level at times like “Inner Voices”. While there is a certain coldness to this boundless expanse, Walter still colors it with further emotion. “Radio Contact” sees the soundscapes shift towards a serene and ethereal identity, while “Slow Walkers” crafts a mesmerizing aural picture through an understated rendition.

Justin Walter still achieves his vision of a rich and colorful work established through subtle means. What defines Destroyer is the same thing that is true of its predecessor, in that it is a work of great economy. Walter knows exactly what strings to pull at which time and how the most minuscule amount of exerted energy can have the maximal effect. So, while it is not so much a change but rather a continuation of Unseen Forces, Destroyer achieves its end goal. It establishes an immersive world filled with wonder and emotion.

RATING 8 / 10