Michigan-based musician Justin Walter initially became known for playing trumpet in NOMO, a group with a sound rooted in Afrobeat but open to influences from numerous genres and eras. Walter's solo work is much harder to categorize, falling somewhere between ambient, jazz, new age, and modern composition. Using a bench full of electronics, including the obscure, difficult-to-master EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument), he conjures unearthly sounds, shifting between various dream-like states and emotions. Lullabies & Nightmares, Walter's debut for Kranky, expands on some of his self-released EPs and limited releases on Fred Thomas' Life Like label. This is partially due to the presence of drumming by Quin Kirchner on several of the album's tracks, including the effervescent highlight "Dream Weaving." With or without drums, Walter's music is hypnotic, strange, and utterly fascinating. Much of the songs were built from improvisations, and it seems like it would be difficult to properly compose them; they sound like they were dreamt rather than written. While the songs are soothing enough to be lullabies, there are enough traces of darkness to suggest the second half of the album's title. Walter does play trumpet on occasion, but he plays solemn, drawn-out lines rather than jubilant solos. On the album's lengthy, fluttering title track, layers of somber trumpet and soft, rumbling drums provide counterpoint to the more manic sounds emitted from the EVI. Truly unique and awe-inspiring, Lullabies & Nightmares sounds like little else.
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AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson