Drift Ten marks the 10th anniversary of David Walters’ project The Echelon Effect. The artist describes his latest album as a look forward and a look back. All of his signature aspects can be found here, from crisp mastering to alternating periods of ambience and crescendo. Field recordings are included. And yes, Virginia, there are glockenspiels, lots of glockenspiels, which makes it sound a bit like Christmas in spring.
The early tracks have a slightly bittersweet tinge that one chalks up to perspective, as reflected in the titles: “The Drift of Lonely Hearts,” “Fall of the Decade.” But when “Denver for an Hour” hits, the timbre rises toward the stratosphere. We remember why we first fell in love with the artist’s sound: a sense of transcendence. From whence does this feeling arise? Maybe it’s the linking of glockenspiels to church chimes and angels. Maybe it’s the melodic guitars swirling into the upbeat drums like caramel into vanilla. Maybe it’s the mastering, offering clarity in a muddled world; or the bass, particularly effective on “Walking Empty Streets,” serving as an anchor to a thoughtful stroll. It all clicks when Walters joins a pair of titles, writing that he is “trying to connect lonely hearts amongst empty streets.” We receive the music as comfort, encouragement, grace. He’s been at this for over a decade, and he’s still trying to get us to love each other.
Even a track like “Goodbye, My Friend” (the first single) bursts into bloom halfway through, implying that the parting is at the very least a “sweet sorrow.” The closing moments, recorded in an airplane, represent the physical sense of soaring, which continues in the communication beeps that launch “Retracing Our Tracks in the Sky.” The piece is edged with static and bells, a gentle reminder of opposing forces. Thankfully, we know all will end well. And then, when two minutes remain: Glockenspiel! Drums!
The cover’s airport’s runway lights seem to stretch to eternity. It’s a metaphor of sorts, a promise that better things are still possible. In the album’s second half, Walters treads this encouraging territory, providing reminders of warmth (“The Feedback of Summer”) and connection (“A Song for Forever”). He ends on his most personal note: “You Sleep, I’ll Keep Watch.” One thinks of a parent at a child’s side, or a child visiting a parent’s hospital bed. But the title is also a message to the listener. Walters has seen his share of hard times, as has the world. But he’s seen even more beauty and light. In the darkness, it’s good to know he’s still holding the torch. (Richard Allen)