I didn’t plan to write a review tonight. But the CD was playing and it caught me up and carried me away and I had to write…
Wil Bolton’s music is part of the texture of my world. I always enjoy his releases to one degree or another, but a handful of them have risen from “this is nice” to “this is one of my favorite things”. The expressive chimes of Time Lapse and Chimes for a Wall Drawing call forth wonder and remain in my listening rotation years after their release. Angel in the House, by Wil & Tarl, is a marvelous drone piece. The last several releases I have enjoyed, but they did not quite creep up onto my inner list of most-favored recordings. And then Inscriptions came along on Moscow’s consistently excellent Dronarivm label and charmed me completely.
At the outset, little, softly darting sounds and questing essays on guitar strings draw us into a lush bed of sound, a title track astir with possibility, caressing the air with a gentle, exploratory touch. A deep, rich drone forms an enveloping bed and the guitar notes, rather than playing over or in front of it, seem increasingly to emerge from it and sigh back into its velvety texture. A tight flurry of pulses recurs from time to time, restating an inchoate question. We could rest here for a long time, quite still and in perpetual motion. Hedera, track 2, is for me perhaps the high point of a consistently strong album. A warm droning loop sways sedately, its constant round-and-round-and-up-and-down motion as mesmerizing and soothing as the gentle sway of a kelp forest in a tropical sea. The guitar meditates in a loose, questing pattern as bird cries and small, darting buzzes weave intricately around the sounds. The overall effect is detailed and fascinating, and as warm and wallowing as a fresh-run bath on a winter evening. That the track sways on for some time without departing from its message is part of its success; I never want it to end.
End it does, but Seed picks up right where it left off. It modulates the tone a little, adds some human sounds of children playing and some creaks and crackles, offers a slightly more purposeful guitar pattern, and sways ever onward. As I listen I am again impressed with how complex the mood is. This music is warm and comforting. It is melancholy and wistful. It is gently affirming of world and life. It is nostalgic and thoughtful. It is questioning and pensive. It is often all of these things at the same time, a restful restlessness that allows the listener to ease back and relax in the swell or become fully engaged in the rich textures.
Track four is called Cathedral. Again everything is the same and everything is different, the guitar more skittish, the drone more plaintive, the space evoked by the field recordings more open and seeking, reaching more than circling. Rather than placing us in the intimate company of fellow creatures (birds, children), this track gives a sense of being in the presence of unseen events, of things moving we know not where. Limestone, the final track, wells up warmly, aswirl with crackling light and hope, and eddies us gently with harp-like flurries to a restful end.
And then comes the repeat button.
To say this is my favorite Wil Bolton album is already to say that I like it better than some of my favorite albums, period. I spent the summer wondering what would be high on of my end-of-year list – I had heard nice things this year, but nothing that had given me that sense that a magical gift had come my way. This is one of those gifts, and I am still gratefully falling in love with it.
I did not plan to write a review tonight. But the CD was playing and it caught me up and carried me along and I had to write…and fortunately the music is much better than my writing. Stream it below, buy it at Bandcamp and other online stores, luxuriate in it.
David Smith currently lives in the Midwestern United States, where he teaches, writes, and enjoys a very wide range of music, with regard to which he claims no expertise whatsoever beyond that of a dedicated and appreciative listener.
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