David Walters is one of the few artists whose every release is reliable. The Echelon Effect has a clearly identifiable sound, and has stuck to it consistently. (The final installment of Seasons might be considered an exception, save for the fact that it is part of a larger body of work.) While The American Dollar might be the closest relative, The Echelon Effect has a better sense of melancholy gratitude - a sadness that something has ended, but a gladness for having had the experience.
This sense comes into play with the timing of the latest release, arriving right at the end of summer vacation. One might ask, “Wouldn’t any album played at this time be identified with the end of the season?” This author’s response is that of 50 albums previewed in the last two weeks, this is the one that best matches the mood of forthcoming withdrawal. As I left the beach in my rear-view mirror earlier this afternoon, driving into the remnants of Hurricane Isaac, a few sunbeams struggled to send lines from distant clouds to the horizon. The Echelon Effect’s music – melancholy, but not mournful, euphoric, but restrained – was the perfect soundtrack for my mixed emotions.
Since every listener places the sheet of experience over music, it’s important to note the artist’s intentions. Field Recordings is about flying, and the samples are provided with the permission of Soundrangers. One can easily intuit the arc of a flight, given the instrumentation: the dawn, the takeoff, the soaring heights, the return to earth.
“Intro” and “Tracking Aeroplanes” mark the early morning hours, the check-in, the consultation of weather conditions. Piano tones waft through the air like morning gulls. Sweet ambient drones roll like mist. Glockenspiel notes fall like good news: the flight will go on as scheduled. When the guitar enters, the excitement is palpable. The military drums at the end feel like lifting wheels.
“Antenna” and “Call to Ground” provide the impression of passing through cloud cover. Mystery is still apparent, a pregnant anticipation. The tracks drift together like colliding clouds. Percussion is held back until the final two minutes, possibly signifying the rise above the white and grey. And then “Outer Marker”, the set’s finest track, in which the drums and glockenspiel cavort with birds in the low heavens, sunlight sparkling off the plane’s metal wings.
A bit of friendly taunting is present in the last title: “The Brightest Star You See Is My Wingtip Over Your Home”. But even the best pilot must land sometime. Even if the artist is in the clouds and the listener is in the sky, the final impression is the same: open-eyed wonder and a desire to recapture the experience. And so the music wraps around, the last track feeding back into the first, suggesting that the memory has been looped in anticipation of the next flight. (Richard Allen)