Cumulus Sketches

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My new album ‘Cumulus Sketches’ is out now on Home Normal. Massive thanks to Ian Hawgood for mastering and releasing this, and to Stijn Hüwels for the beautiful cover art.

Following up from 2014’s ‘Bokeh’, Home Normal welcomes back Wil Bolton. ‘Cumulus Sketches’ is an album of fragile, drifting ambient structures for daydreaming and cloud-watching. Pastoral analogue synthesizer melodies and effects pedal textures are intertwined with rural and urban environmental sounds recorded in South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka.

Released by Home Normal on limited CD and download, 14 January 2021.

Credits

Written and recorded by Wil Bolton
Cover art by Stijn Hüwels
Mastered by Ian Hawgood

Reviews

“Wil Bolton’s ‘Cumulus Sketches’ follows on from 2014’s Bokeh. Continuing on in a deep ambient vein, Cumulus Sketches blends analogue synth with rural and urban field recordings, which were taken in South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Sri Lanka. Wil Bolton’s latest excursion captures the atmosphere of the East, with its glowing synths producing cool, dusk-stretched melodic monuments which reflect nothing but a fading light. The synths bask in the afterglow of the day; its setting sun is a fireball, burning against the backdrop of the sky until nothing but the blackened ashes of the night remain.

Cumulus Sketches is immediately expansive, with spread-out, immersive melodies and an oriental atmosphere. In general, the music is tranquil, restorative, and healthy, and the tracks are given time to properly develop, feeling more like fully-grown pieces and less like the sketches of its title. The blurred effect of reverb only adds to the dream, making Cumulus Sketches the perfect soundtrack for cloud gazing.

The silky-smooth ‘Lavender Layer’ is just one example of its divine ambient nature, and once again listeners will be reminded of the unbreakable connection between nature and ambient music. One can almost visualise a lush woodland, with chirps and tweets filtering into the record, creating an additional chorus as the birds call down from the tips of treetops, appearing close but also echoing from a distant branch.

‘In Flight’ is also a delectable mix, merging more of a human presence with tranquil, dripping synths. Despite the urban field recording, it manages to retain a relaxing core, and its essence remains calm even in the middle of the hustle and bustle. Just like the aforementioned birds, movements and other sounds seem distant even when they’re up close and personal. It’s the same effect as the former track, but in a very different setting, reinforcing the belief that barriers don’t exist within music. It’s all about context. The same effect can be achieved either out in the open country or in the middle of the city: inner peace, inner calm. After all, the clouds don’t shy away from one or favour another. They can be found in both settings; all one has to do is look up.” – Fluid Radio

“Good to see Home Normal kicking off 2021 in style with Wil Bolton’s suite of field recording sprinkled, drifting ambient textures that are perfect for lockdown ceiling gazing as well as daydreaming of warm spring days & the appearance of nature’s green shoots.” – The Slow Music Movement

“A headphones album ideally suited for closing your eyes and escaping lockdown cabin fever in the depths of winter, ‘Cumulus Sketches’ is the first Wil Bolton album on the Home Normal label since 2014. Consisting of delicate synths and effects peppered with field recordings taken from the Far East, Bolton creates bucolic soundscapes to lose yourself in.” – Norman Records

“Wil Bolton returns to the Home Normal label and opens their promising release schedule for this year with Cumulus Sketches. For this label, it is the follow-up to 2014’s Bokeh and 2017’s Transparencies (a collaboration with Ian Hawgood) – but there were also different releases on other labels in the meantime. 

The album title can be taken quite seriously since these six ‘sketches’ are “drifting ambient structures for daydreaming and cloud-watching.”

Environmental sounds recorded in South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka are combined with sounds from analogue synthesizers and effect pedals to create a natural, floating, environment. 

The pieces all have a nice lo-fi (but not too lo-fi) sound which adds to its spontaneity and enhances the environmental atmosphere.” – Ambientblog

“Ormai da qualche album a questa parte, i paesaggi sonori pennellati da Wil Bolton sulle corde della sua chitarra presentano dirette connessioni con quelli realmente attraversati durante i suoi viaggi nel continente asiatico.

Da quei luoghi fisici, dalla loro cultura e anche dalla loro ricorrente dimensione spirituale, sospesa tra antico e moderno, sono stati già ispirati due dei suoi più recenti lavori (“Viridian Loops”, 2018, e “Kochi”, 2019); “Cumulus Sketches” completa dunque l’ideale trilogia orientale dell’artista inglese, che anche in quest’occasione ha tratto le mosse da field recordings raccolti in diversi contesti urbani tra Giappone, Corea e Sri Lanka.  In apparente antitesi rispetto alla notevole antropizzazione delle metropoli asiatiche, lo sguardo di Wil Bolton si rivolge, non solo metaforicamente, al cielo, come a ricercare dei piccoli – eppure sconfinati – ritagli visivi nei quali ritrovare il ritmo naturale del respiro e dell’immaginazione.

Non di sole metafore vivono tuttavia le sette tracce di “Cumulus Sketches”, dense e vaporose come le nuvole intercettate nelle contemplazioni atmosferiche dell’artista inglese e da lui tradotte in esili stratificazioni sintetiche e fragili modulazioni chitarristiche. I circa tre quarti d’ora del lavoro suscitano spontaneo abbandono agli elementi e ai loro movimenti incorporei, dai quali lasciarsi trasportare in uno stato di quiete dolcemente ipnotica, nella quale si manifesta una galleria di estatiche visioni ambientali.” – Music Won’t Save You

Cumulus Sketches de Wil Bolton fait suite à Bokeh réalisé en 2014. Poursuivant dans une veine ambiante profonde, il mélange le synthé analogique avec des enregistrements sur le terrain en milieu rural et urbain, qui ont été réalisés en Corée du Sud, au Japon, à Hong Kong et au Sri Lanka. La dernière excursion de Wil Bolton capte l’atmosphère de l’Orient, avec ses synthés lumineux produisant des monuments mélodiques frais et étirés dans la nuit qui ne reflètent rien d’autre qu’une lumière déclinante. Les synthétiseurs se prélassent dans la lueur du jour ; son soleil couchant est une boule de feu, qui brûle sur la toile de fond du ciel jusqu’à ce qu’il ne reste plus que les cendres noircies de la nuit.

Cumulus Sketches est immédiatement expansif, avec des mélodies étendues et immersives et une atmosphère orientale. En général, la musique est calme, réparatrice et saine, et les morceaux ont le temps de se développer correctement, se sentant plus comme des morceaux adultes et moins comme les esquisses de son titre. L’effet flou de la réverbération ne fait qu’ajouter au rêve, ce qui fait de Cumulus Sketches la bande-son parfaite pour regarder les nuages.

Lavender Layer, d’une douceur soyeuse, n’est qu’un exemple de sa nature ambiante divine, et une fois de plus, les auditeurs se souviendront du lien indéfectible entre la nature et la musique d’ambiance. On peut presque imaginer une forêt luxuriante, avec des pépiements et des gazouillis qui filtrent dans le disque, créant un refrain supplémentaire lorsque les oiseaux appellent de la cime des arbres, apparaissant ainsi proches mais aussi faisant écho d’une branche éloignée.

In Flight est également un mélange délicieux, dans la mesure où il fusionne une présence humaine avec des synthés tranquilles et insaisissables. Malgré l’enregistrement sur le terrain urbain, il parvient à conserver un noyau relaxant, et son essence reste calme même au milieu de l’agitation. Tout comme les oiseaux mentionnés ci-dessus, les mouvements et autres sons semblent distants même lorsqu’ils sont proches et personnels. C’est le même effet que le précédent morceau, mais dans un cadre très différent, ce qui renforce l’idée que les barrières n’existent pas dans la musique. C’est une question de contexte. Le même effet peut être obtenu en pleine campagne ou en pleine ville : paix intérieure, calme intérieur. Après tout, les nuages n’hésitent pas à s’éloigner de l’un ou de favoriser l’autre ; on les trouve dans les deux contextes et il suffira donc juste de lever les yeux.” – Rock-Decibels

“Vaporose formazioni in incessante divenire che sinuose definiscono un immobile ed infinito fondale. Che le nuvole col loro costante ricomporsi ispirino espanse trame sonore non è certo una novità, ma ogni sguardo riesce a conferire a questo suggestivo trasformarsi una peculiare caratteristica rendendola unica. Non sfugge al fascino dell’osservazione di un siffatto cielo Wil Bolton, proseguendo il suo viaggio sonico verso un est sempre più distante dopo le mediorientali suggestioni di “Kochi”.

Ad interpolare le dense modulazioni sintetiche in flessuoso sviluppo troviamo risonanze ambientali catturate appunto in Corea, Giappone, Hong Kong e Sri Lanka, naturalistici echi che emergono dalle oniriche fluttuazioni contribuendo, insieme alle delicate linee melodiche plasmate da Bolton, alla creazione di sei atmosferici itinerari aerei. Un senso di placida quiete è la costante che accompagna l’incedere di ogni traccia, anche quando l’atmosfera vira verso orizzonti meno luminosi e lievemente increspati da umori crepuscolari (“In Flight”, “Scoria”).

Una meditabonda navigazione in un rarefatto oceano di avvolgente suono.” – So What