Wil Bolton is a british composer who caught my attention with his superb debut Time Lapse released on Hibernate in 2010. I remember quite clearly how beautiful and delicate his music sounded the first time I heard it. It was ambient music as defined by Brian Eno, “An ambience is defined as an atmosphere, or a surrounding influence: a tint [...] Ambient Music is intended to induce calm and a space to think. Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.”
Time Lapse had this sonic perfume quality that I very much liked on albums such as On Land or The Pearl, and it was both powerful and subdued, demanding focus and attention to fully appreciate its beauty.
For the last year or so, Bolton has been busy with two new wonderful projects, Chimes for a Wall Drawing released on Cathedral Transmissions and Melt released on Rural Colours.
Being very different in scope and ambition, Chimes for a Wall Drawing is an hour-long live album and Melt is a 20-min studio EP, both records are undoubtedly very ‘Bolton’ in atmosphere and delicacy.
Chimes for a Wall Drawing is a recording of a performance given by Wil Bolton at Tate Liverpool in August 2009, inspired by the gallery’s display of Sol LeWitt’s ‘Wall Drawing #1136′. Using a subdued sonic palette made of chime bars, handbell, electric guitar, field recordings and electronics, Bolton creates a slowly moving sound world that ebbs and flows majestically on a bed of reverberated drones in a space wide open. Chimes motifs come and go, familiar guitar tones are slowly deconstructed to congeal into -menacing at times- long swells and pastoral field recordings imprint some delicate narrative to this sonic journey. A journey reminding of Eno’s Thursday Afternoon in terms of drifting motion, but very different in mood and atmosphere. Bolton manipulate tension and release to give his work a well defined contour that echoes perfectly the undulating structures of LeWitt’s wall drawing. Moving through the different sections of the work is like moving through colours and observing them for their sheer tactile quality. By the end of this wonderful album, Bolton music feels like bathing in sound, or floating on a pond whose surface reflects the morning light – a truly moving and intoxicating experience.
If Chimes for a Wall Drawing was very much open and wide in scope, Melt feels much more focused and intimate. Again fragments of melodies appear and repeat throughout this long-form piece, seemingly going nowhere but moving and changing in incremental fashion. Glitches, crackles and occasional saturation of tones blur the picture at times, and give the music a texture that reminds of a badly kept super-8 movie. Colours change subtly, objects appear in and out of focus and time seems inconsistent, either slowing down or speeding up. It is hard to tell what’s being shown but does it matters? Bolton creates irradiating miniatures that warms the listener up by their imperfections. Again, there is light but this time it seems trapped inside an iridescent glass ball whose surface is meticulously observed by the listener. Delicate light rays seems to bounce back and forth on its surface, like floating in slow motion in a white sonic aether. Melt feels like softness has been attached to a shell and for this reason is a pure delight.