Wil Bolton: Inscriptions
Wil Bolton's contribution to Dronarivm's catalogue is very much in line with the previous releases the Moscow-based label has issued. With field recordings and ambient-drone soundscaping the foundation upon which Inscriptions is built, the release makes for a perfect label fit. As far as the project's development is concerned, the field recordings came first, with Bolton (who hails from London, UK) collecting everyday sounds of a lake, a town square, streets, and parks during an autumn 2011 residency at the Estonian Artists' Association in Tallinn. In early 2013, he turned his attention to the instrumental dimension of the project by generating loops of piano, strings and harp taken from “old, dusty charity shop records.” Using guitar pedals and laptop effects, extensive processing treatments were applied, resulting in a densely detailed base over which acoustic guitar, piano, and analogue and digital synthesizers were added.
It's no surprise, then, that the five settings on the album are ultra-rich in detail, Bolton having woven the various elements into material so layered it verges on opaque. While instrument sounds audibly intone on the surface, underneath are molasses-thick masses of ever-mutating design; an identifiable element does regularly separate itself from the mass—a bird call, traffic noise, or child's voice, for example—but for the most part the base flows like some blurry organism.
In the title track, relaxed acoustic strums merge with willowy ambient textures and field recordings, while in “Seed,” shadings of acoustic guitar and phase-treated electric guitar intermingle with textures of crackle and hiss and the faint cries of children at play. Of the recording's five settings, it might be the final one, “Limestone,” that's the most becalmed. A crackling noise aside, the music otherwise drifts with the utmost serenity, its celestial harp strums and gauzy glow punctuated by sounds of the seashore and distant bird calls. It's hard not to think of a faded family Polaroid taken at some local town beach at such moments, and when a string instrument flutters through the haze-smothered loops of “Cathedral,” one begins to gauge the distance separating Bolton and Marsen Jules as very small indeed.There's a serenading tone to the material on Inscriptions that's reinforced by the autumnal melancholy that no doubt Bolton experienced during his Tallinn stay. Some ambient-drone soundscapes exude a chilly and barren quality consistent with their dystopic, end-of-the-world themes; Bolton's, by comparison, are invitingly warmed by nostalgia and fading memories, as well as the wistful feeling the fall season engenders in so many of us.