Wil Bolton is something of a Hibernate Recordings veteran, having released music on the label and its Rural Colours sister label since 2010. I haven’t heard them all but I doubt there’s much in his esteemed back catalogue that quite matches the ethereal lightness of touch achieved on Under A Name That Hides Her.
From the squeak and caw of birds on ‘Clearing’ to the quiet closing babble of water on ‘Passing’, Wil Bolton’s sublime new album is one that pays distant respect to nature, hovering above and circling around without ever touching down, like a fine wisp of sheep’s wool momentarily snagging on purple heather. The titles hint at awe and wonderment but at a remove: ‘Clearing’, ‘Skyview’ and the threatening ‘Barbed’. Nothing is graspable (‘Dissolve’), all is movement (‘Passing’) and everything bleeds into one gloriously lucid stream of gentle, patient and thought-provoking music.
Through a combination of field recordings, acoustic manipulation and subtle electronics, Bolton creates ever-changing soundscapes and ambient textures that mirror the nature of the land above which they float. It’s largely rural, occasionally maritime, mostly fresh aired and undoubtedly beautiful but there is an inescapable sense of sadness throughout. On tracks like ‘Passing’, with its sporadic cracks, disembodied voices and faintly menacing back-forth plod one thinks of fog enshrouded moor tops and Brontë’s quiet earth sleepers. Things that went before, things left unsaid, things that refuse to be forgotten.
It’s tempting to read the album as one on which darkness gradually descends but I risk making it sound gloomier than it really is. Certainly the journey begins and ends in different locations both physically and emotionally but the atmosphere is mainly wistful, not depressed. To begin with, ‘Clearing’ is as open and airy as you would expect, and full of life from the birds to the chimes. You could say it relies on genre topos but Bolton uses them in such ways as to give them new life, burying them far enough in the mix so as to create subliminal pulses of memory as you wander old haunts. ‘Blackpoint’ – an album stand-out and it’s most tormented passage – mixes running water with slowly engulfing shards of electronic flashback, while ‘Barbed’ is it’s most distant and reflective moment. The chatter of birds that rises above ‘Dissolve’ carries it into the clouds on a gently ebbing bed of manipulated string swipes and offers sweet respite before ‘Passing’.
Under A Name That Hides Her is an album that richly rewards repeat listens. Small details reveal themselves at every turn – from the creaks of rocking chairs to high-pitched electronic whines – but what endures is the overall feeling it all creates when combined with such skill. Tantalising intangibility, the use of dislocation through vague familiarity and the enviable ability to manoeuvre the listener with the very softest of touches has allowed Wil Bolton to create an album of sublime psychological subtlety and one you’ll find yourself returning to over and over again.
‘Under a Name that Hides Her’ will be available May 16th through Hibernate Recordings.