Shy Layers’ Midnight Marker dances between darkness and light, discreet but assured music aware of an “other” self and the dream world which that vessel visits. Rich in symbolism, appearing as floating, formless reflections and poignant pop statements, musician and visual artist JD Walsh’s sophomore album offers new perspectives on time and transition, the emotional tides of experience, and the joy of the journey.
Midnight Marker is dedicated in part to understanding these transitions. Like a coming-of-age story in reverse, the album explores the reorganization of time and space against a new now: a today imbued, rather than riddled, with the idiosyncrasies of yesterday. The album is not a wrought reality check, however; instead, a spirited survey of genre, imagery, and meaning bathed in familiarity and ineffable emotion.
Throughout Midnight Marker, Walsh shares the comfort of composing within the newfound atmospheres of Atlanta having lived in NYC for many moons. Apart from having more space to stretch out and create, Walsh cites modular synthesis as a muse for much of Midnight Marker. Using spontaneous modes to blossom chance beauty in favor of conventional composition, Walsh’s songwriting almost feels happy-go-lucky instead of happenstance. A perfect analog to Walsh’s affable, optimistic spirit beyond his music.
In a similar spirit a spontaneity, Walsh invited vocalists whom he didn’t know personally, but respected their talents, to perform on the album. The “let’s see what happens” expectation set an open tone while recording that reflects in the positively impressionistic lyrics and sense of shared experience that gives Midnight Marker its inviting glow. As with his visual art, Walsh’s sense of scale, texture, and color ensures these contributions and surrounding sounds work communally and considerately.
The slower, linear development of Midnight Marker’s songs suggests an organic sensibility that wasn’t quite as apparent on the pattern-based compositions of Walsh’s 2016 self-titled debut album. Walsh cites the cerebral pop of Wally Badarou, Arthur Russell, and Another Green World as influences, but his equal love for Luther Vandross digs deep, reflective milestones throughout Midnight Marker. It’s sophisticated while being soulfully, through not righteously, self-aware.
So, while there is a softness, a shyness to Midnight Marker, there is clarity and wisdom, too. The layers of the past and the experiences which collect together to become age, place, and being are pulled back to reveal a different sense of self. A self able to dance between darkness and light.