Richard Houghten: Slow Poke
Boltfish Recordings

Polestar: Camplex EP
Boltfish Recordings

Launched in January 2004, Boltfish's mix of electronic sounds isn't radically different from the norm; what is different is that, unlike some labels, the non-profit Boltfish releases its music online free of charge. Two upcoming EPs offer some indication of the label's offerings.

Slow Poke is rooted in the subtle marriage of Seattle-based Richard Houghten's acoustic guitar with electronic processing and edits. All but one of the EP's six tracks eschew beats for settings of intimacy and restraint, the languid “Cup” the anomaly with its expansive arrangement of drums and what sounds like bass, vibes, and guitar. “Orange” offers an interesting fusion of down-home ambiance with a sluicing violin moan faintly heard amidst the phasing of guitar plucks, while half-glimpsed traces of delicate melancholy seep through the bluesy picking and electronic echo of “Flashlight.” It's Houghten's guitar prowess that makes the strongest impression, however, on this brief collection of understated folktronica.

Dramatically different from Slow Poke, Polestar's Camplex EP traffics in a familiar strain of melodic electronic music. While Bristol-based Jon Elliott may have been weaned on a diet of Kraftwerk and Cabaret Voltaire, the disc's four tracks show him holding the Warp torch high with Plaid in particular helping him do so. Exploiting contrast effectively, Elliott typically offsets swaying rhythm patterns of percolating clicks, thrums, and throbs with the ascending arch of silken orchestral washes, the lovely opener “Moonbounce” a prime exemplar of his approach. The feel throughout is cinematic and atmospheric.

March 2005