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I have a new album out on the wonderful Home Normal label. Massive thanks to Ian for putting this CD out for me, and here are some lovely words from him about the release:

Wil has been a dear friend and collaborator now for many years, quite a bit before Home Normal even came into existence. We’ve watched in wonder at Wil’s development from his electronic work as Cheju, to running his wonderful Boltfish label, and in more recent years, his super releases on the ever quality Hibernate and Time Released Sound labels. His installation work has seen him work around the UK, as well as maintaining a strong connection to South Korea, and this summer he will even be here in Japan.

‘Bokeh’ is one of those lovely records that doesn’t really hit you straight away to be honest. That, though, is the beauty of Wil’s works. From very subtle beginnings you are left to uncover wonderful variances, discovering new elements coming to the fore with each listen.

The Japanese ボケ味 (‘boke-aji’) relates to a ‘blur quality’, and has in time come to be known as a photographic technique by which ‘out-of-focus’ points of light are processed by certain lenses. You can get ‘good’ or ‘bad’ bokeh which often refers to the level of distraction in the image, with the good of course, enhancing the image somehow in its own mysterious way.

Indeed, bokeh is regarded as an ‘optical abberation’. To steal a final quote: ‘Aberrations occur because the simple paraxial theory is not a completely accurate model of the effect of an optical system on light, rather than due to flaws in the optical elements.’ Isn’t that a wonderful way of looking at things in life itself? As a sort of bokeh perspective. There are no completely accurate models for how we view things, and ‘Bokeh’ perfectly demonstrates in its own quiet way just how individual and unique our optics are.

Finally, and to nicely coincide with the idea of ‘optics’, Wil also created a superb video for the title track of the album. The setting for the film is an urban environment; a blurred (ok…’bokeh’) vision as the watcher seems present but also quietly disconnected from the noise and rush around them. In this simple way the album is perfectly encapsulated, showing the quietude of spirit even in the most urban of environments.

Released by Home Normal on CD, in an edition of 500, 15 August 2014. Packaged in single recycled card insert placed inside 7″ locally cultivated washi cover, including unique vintage slide and photograph.

Written and produced by Wil Bolton
Mastered by Ian Hawgood
Photography by Hitoshi Ishihara (attic photograph)
Designed by togoshi + mondül

Album microsite
Digital edition via Bandcamp


“Wil “with one L” Bolton has done another album of his gorgeous blurry ambience this week, housed in a delicate 8″x7″ sleeve that you will really struggle to file with your other records and still keep in uncompromised condition. He’s reminded me of Windy and Carl before and he’s immediately doing it again on the opening title track, an ethereal smudge of subtle arrhythmic chimes and gliding, unsourceable drones which gets a little glitchy and digitally corrupted towards the end.

We get various subtle variations on this theme of blurred, smoky drones and dinky chiming details over a further five tracks. ‘Tremadog’ throws in some crunchy static…or is it cars driving through puddles? ‘1887’ has a feverish kind of buzzing thing going on and some new-trainers-on-lino squeaks, ‘Sash’ has pre-concert babblings and weird chopped up orchestra-tuning samples stretched all backwards and inside out, in ‘Pentaprism’ children caw like crows over a rich, droning chord that has a kind of accordion/harmonium wheezy quality to it. I’m not going to give away what happens in closer ‘Moonlight (For Sophie)’. That one can be a surprise.

If you’re into the droney times of the likes of Windy and Carl, Celer or Hakobune and haven’t yet investigated Bolton’s meticulously crafted and brittly detailed sound sculptures, here’s a perfect opportunity. You might want to pick up his ‘Under A Name That Hides Her’ LP for a bargain £3.49 while we’ve still got cheap copies, too! 8/10.” – Norman Records

“Il calore emozionale delle partiture ambientali di Wil Bolton (Cheju, The Ashes Of Piemonte, Anzio Green, Ashlar Le Moors) trova nella sua prima opera solista da due anni a questa parte densa profondità prospettica, veicolata da frequenze modulate, field recordings e variopinte screziature elettro-acustiche.

Nei sei brani di “Bokeh”, l’artista inglese filtra il proprio romanticismo attraverso copiose trame di riverberi e screziature droniche persistenti e talora dotate di consistenza granulosa e a tratti persino distorta.

Ciononostante, le ricche texture di Bolton risultano sempre dotate di una preziosa fragilità, espressa attraverso esili filigrane armoniche, costellate da micro-suoni e loop avvolgenti.” – Music Won’t Save You / Rockerilla

“Fresh from the sonically fecund fields of Home Normal, Wil Bolton’s Bokeh is his latest album of gently pulsing, tricked & tweaked, soothing analog/digital haze. Throughout Bokeh I hear harmonium, crystal bowls, knocks, streetscapes, glass clinks, odd analog key snatches and elsewhere heard, vague recollections of sound. From early in Wils recorded career he has used various bell like tones and chimes, to colour his compositions. In this I’m not talking healing room fairy floss, in Wils rendering, often these tones are sensitively edited and manipulated ( hear Tremadog ), playing with our notions of the previously heard, teasing and tantalising our aural library.  Moonlight (For Sophie) also plays with a similar sound palette, though perhaps more lullaby like (and a smile from yours truly upon readingthis interview), and the chimes are more pronounced, pure – like starlight.

Wil always excells at warm drone too and throughout Bokeh, its tonic is ever present. 1887 is one such piece, it opens as a wet streetside location recording and then evolves into a shifting soundworld of stretched, percussive, lulling pulses. Amidst this haze, location sounds subtly enter the foreground, wheeling gulls, wet road traffic, non-specific surfaces and flitting machinations, a door?  Pentaprism too explores the drone with an oddly celestial (the keys) come earthbound (a pedestrian underpass?) contradiction of sounds  seguing into a keyed assertion to close – a true sound memory.

As always, the title is no random choice. Bokeh comes from the Japanese word for a blur quality or haze and in photography, can refer to the contrasting out of focus material beyond the foreground. You know those lovely nightime photos of out of focus lights through a rain soaked windscreen – bokeh. And so, musical Bokeh, offering both a current statement and perhaps an intention from earlier days – its seems to offer a perceptual renewal of all that has passed and is present with Wils art.

For this release, in keeping with the refined artistry of the music, Home Normal have released the physical edition in a card insert placed inside a 7″ washi cover with an accompanying vintage photograph and slide.” – Periwinkle Hear and Now

The Japanese ??? (‘boke-aji’) relates to a ‘blur quality’, and has in time come to be known as a photographic technique by which ‘out-of-focus’ points of light are processed by certain lenses.

Angelic, shimmering points of light reflect the golden blonde colours; tanned feathers, indistinct in their white, tonal haze. The light is a halo that hovers and then surrounds the field of vision. Amber flares burn against the sky, but the warmth is kind, approachable. The music reels you in slowly, with great care. The opening chimes slowly envelop, carrying the listener away on a peaceable drift, a tonal raft.

The slow tempo is just what’s needed, but despite its pace there’s a lot happening. In fact, the activity on “Bokeh” is off the scale. On first glance, it’s ambient music in the process of awakening, pulling itself out of a heavy slumber just before the dawn. Look closer, though, and you will see a metropolis of glinting, vivid colours, like the trinity of a traffic light, looping endlessly. In ‘1887’, you can hear the background noise as a stream of traffic, the music flowing in one direction, towards one destination.

There are subtle, small variations in the sound. It may be an irregular rhythm, brought on by a streak of notes, or it may be the gentle insertion of a field recording. The field recordings are never an obstacle or a diversion; they just reminder us of our place in the world. The music sways back and forth. She prefers to hover, never really sticks to one tone. The lovely ambient light is an out of focus light, but the crystal clear notes that climb to the front are pointed melodic shards that glint lucidly. Its background is obscured, its supple skin shaped by love. Because of its blurry background, the music leans close and whispers of mystery, placid enough, but not entirely peaceful.

“Bokeh” bursts with a soft and gentle beauty. Like a kiss it softly settles, and even though it is a temporary thrill, it never truly leaves. The music is in flux, a vanilla light speckled with golden sand, rhythmically circling. A light use of static grazes the ambient layer, and the sound of children having fun in the playground represents the ambient layer; the distortion is a tiny cut on the music, but it’s also a graze on the field recording, a cut on the palm and the sting of the asphalt after accidentally falling over.

Seagulls hover, just a little higher than the drone. A heavier drone eclipses the lighter tones. Voices echo, but they remain a distant blur, a long way off, as unclear as the damp, muddied background. They could be a thousand miles away, because by this point there’s a real, concrete disconnect. The outside has melted away. The music has held its promise. It’s sweet escapism that blots out the many dialects and languages, takes them out of focus and replaces the old struggles with the clearer, international language of music. Bokeh is tonal honey. It has a personable nature: affectionate ambient, sensitive to the touch.” – Fluid Radio

Bokeh feels like a true “environment”: ambient music that feels alive with the intelligence of nature. Wil Bolton has done quite a bit of sound work for art installations, where being sensitive to an actual environment is paramount. His compositions are often informed by visual cues (landscapes, architecture) where an initial field recording is made and then expanded upon with analogue instruments and a laptop. The fuzzy synth meditation “1887” opens with traffic, before the seagulls give another clue as to where we are (Spoiler! This one is in Liverpool). In fact, Bokeh on the whole is peppered with traffic and city sounds from various cities, inspiring serenity within a distracting urban setting.

The Japanese word ‘bokeh’ (say BOH-kay) refers to the way a camera lens renders the part of a photograph that is out of focus. Bolton was especially interested in parallels between the aural and the visual and between photography and sound. The abstract concept is perhaps best explained in Bolton’s own video below. Oh, yeah – Wil Bolton does photography and video work, too.

Best capturing the meaning of the word, the essential “Bokeh” could go on forever without any complaints from us. Bells and bowls are struck, then echo and tumble with a meditative cadence. Bolton is very playful with his treatments of these sounds: no two bell tones cascade or resolve the same way. Beneath the bells lives a rich blend of twinkling fragments, gulls and wind, and an amorphous yet deft weaving of analogue and synthetic sounds. The single step on a high-hat cymbal deep into the track continues to intrigue.

Throughout the album, synths weave between one another like wisps of fog, and it is this ever-changing patina that Bolton is so good at. He is using loops, but none of them are timed the same, ensuring unique combinations throughout. While this seems like a simple device, the attention to detail feels molecular. “Tremadog” sounds like Four Tet’s favorite kind of bells and field recordings, but the beats are left sleeping in the shade, encouraging the ever-manipulated bells to flit and stutter. “Moonlight (For Sophie)” is a lullaby for Bolton’s 1-year-old niece, and gosh is it pretty. The original field recording is from little Sophie’s toy telephone and rattle, which are treated with loving care as a circuitous melody cascades like starlight through a drifting curtain. The peripheral magic of this composition wonderfully captures the wonder with which we can view young children experiencing the world, reveling in another’s fresh experience, never really knowing as an adult what this time in our own lives was like.

The album feels like a memory yearning to be experienced fresh, but it is always out of reach. Wil Bolton’s work is truly wonderful and “bokeh” is an apt theme, playing with the idea that modeling our perception can never match how people truly experience the world. The camera lens produces visual “abberations” when elements run out of focus, but many photographic effects caught in the periphery strike us as sublime. Fire up the sensory deprivation chamber and put this one on to experience high quality ambient memories from a life you have never lived.” – A Closer Listen

“L’inclinaison de Wil Bolton pour une ambient faite de bribes de guitare traitée et de field recordings aux frontières de l’onirisme a déjà été évoquée à plusieurs reprises sur ces pages. Avec son nouvel album, qui sort sur Home Normal, ce parti pris se confirme et, assurément, on s’est (définitivement ?) éloigné de l’electronica que l’Anglais prisait lorsqu’il œuvrait en tant que CHEjU.

Travaillant à nouveau sur le tintement de quelques éléments organiques et leur résonance dans le scintillement de certaines nappes, comme sur l’intégration d’éléments capturés dans son environnement (fragments de discussion, bruits de la rue), Bolton sait également tirer le maximum de la durée qu’il confère à chacun de ses morceaux (sept minutes de moyenne pour les six morceaux de Bokeh), jouant sur l’étirement des structures et leur caractère dilaté (le morceau-titre ou bien Moonlight (For Sophie). Si cette opération peut paraître un rien trop distendue (quelques passages auraient peut-être gagnés à être davantage resserrés), la beauté gracile qui se dégage de ses compositions s’avère certaine.

Au-delà de ces démarches, le Britannique peut aussi jouer sur l’oscillation de ses nappes, et faire ainsi le lien avec le titre de son album qui, en japonais, renvoie à une technique photographique de mise au point floue, dans laquelle le point ne se fait pas, restant en perpétuelle recherche de l’exacte distance. Vibrantes et hésitantes, les composantes de1887 agissent donc bien en écho de cet intitulé bien que cette figure de style ne soit pas la seule convoquée par Wil Bolton qui connaît, par ailleurs, le moyen de concocter un morceau à l’avancée plus linéaire (Pentaprism).” – Etherreal

“This new release by Wil Bolton, a sound artist whose name often appeared on this zine by means of his lovely drone-ambient outputs or for some releases he dropped by his imprint Boltfish or in the guise of Cheju, names after “bokeh”, a word which refers to a well-known photographic blurring technique that comes from the alteration of the Japanese word “boke”, meaning “blur” or “haze”. Some photographers consider it an “optical aberration” as many “boke” could come from wrong focusing of the optical lens, but it could be intentionally added to bring out some object from background or for artistic photography. A friend of mine who has a mania for Japan and photography explained to me that “boke” is also the word to describe the mental confusion of aged people suffering from senile dementia, but even if Wil’s sonorities could sound vaguely melancholic, I don’t think it’s connected to senility! The opening title-track seems to translate the above-described photographic ‘out-of-focus’ technique into sound as he blurred resounding objects such as seagulls or distant traffic noises by means of diluted atmospheric vanishing varnish and bulged clear bell-like hits and he follows a similar pattern on the following tracks where Wil slightly changes blurred elements and blurring dynamics: an indistinct chatter and a wrapping frequency which sounds like frowning on this interference on “Sash”, driving rain and loooped metallic hits on the track that got named from the Welsh village of Tramadog, recurring traffic sounds, playing children and chirping birds that got wrapped into a Boards Of Canada-like sonic blister which renders a certain sense of lukewarm astonishment on the pleasantly lulling “1887”, electric buzzes and other faint voices on the entrancing “Pentaprism”. The final dedication to his 1-year old niece “Moonlight (for Sophie)” where he included the melody of her toy telephone and other rattles is the most tender moment of the release and could let you surmise that the sonic optical lens by which Wil filtered surrounding reality is a sort of childish reverie where the differentiations that feature the perception of adults got levelled off.” – Chain DLK

“From very subtle beginnings you are left to uncover wonderful variances, discovering new elements coming to the fore with each listen”. Melodías definidas sobre un fondo de sonidos borrosos, abandonadas en la luz que se difumina con el enorme brillo de la radiación solar. Rastros de electrónica y fragmentos de ruido cubren el desplazamiento suave y tenue de las notas que forman piezas de una emotiva calidez. Música que nace en una dimensión irreal y que desemboca en un plano de la realidad muy cercana a quien está detrás del audífono. Wil Bolton, músico inglés que ya tiene tras suyo unos seis trabajos para varias editoriales dedicadas a recopilar los sonidos de la naturaleza digital, músico al que sin embargo conocimos hace muy poco con uno de sus varios proyectos, Ashlar, junto a Phil Edwards. St James’ Gardens(Hibernate, 2014), “melodías relajadas en días que decaen lentamente con el peso y la gravedad del sol tibio, sol de invierno sobre el suelo oscurecido por la lluvia. Folk digital lánguido de tonos que adquieren las formas del atardecer, cuando la luz desaparece con la llegada del frío invisible… Piezas que nacen como una vertiente de agua espontánea, deja que los acordes fluyan naturalmente, adornados por destellos que evaden las sombras: anotaciones registradas al azar, exentas de toda presión posible, de cualquiera exigencia del tiempo que devora lo que se le atraviese. Rastros de sonidos acústicos sumergidos entre trazos cazados dentro del movimiento de la ciudad, la música de Ashlar parece ser recogida de manera opuesta a cualquier pretensión forzada, de la misma manera que se capturan los momentos que ocurren desde sin premeditación detrás del micrófono… Reposo y lentitud. A un costado de los muros que sostienen una ciudad se puede oír el movimiento constante de la misma, un avance de las horas sujeto a una ralentización que disuelve el efecto asfixiante de la agitación”.

Desde la isla de Japón nos llegan estas canciones creadas entre el murmullo eléctrico y la leve estridencia acústica. “Wil ha sido un querido amigo y colaborador por muchos años, incluso un poco antes de que Home Normal llegará a existir. Hemos observado con asombro el desarrollo de Wil desde su trabajo electrónico como Cheju, a dirigir el maravilloso sello Boltfish y, en años recientes, sus geniales lanzamientos en las excelentes etiquetas Hibernate y Time Released Sound”. El nuevo trabajo de Bolton inserta un ruido fraccionado dentro de la sonoridad ambiental, piezas que forman parte del flujo de acordes desarrollados de manera libre en el espacio externo a los circuitos eléctricos y que Wil hace parte suyo. “‘Bokeh’ es uno de esos agradables discos que no te afectan de inmediato para ser honesto. Esa, sin embargo, es la belleza del trabajo de Wil. Desde comienzos muy sutiles quedas para destapar maravillosas variaciones, descubriendo nuevos elementos que salen a la palestra con cada escucha”. Además de los bellos paisajes que contiene este álbum, su presentación es igualmente impecable. “Bokeh” viene en un sobre de cartón y en él una fotografía capturada por Hitoshi Ishihara en papel washi de siete pulgadas de tamaño y, más al interior todavía, el CD acompañado de otra fotografía recogida de algún álbum familiar ya olvidado más una dispositiva Ektachrome, un precioso diseño de togoshi + mondül. “Bokeh” son seis piezas desarrolladas en casi tres cuartos de hora, el tiempo necesario y apropiado para que estas composiciones se asienten, la medida justa para que las armonías y los detalles que las rodean tomen forma en estos trazos de música natural. Como en ese anterior trabajo que hace poco conocimos, al igual que él se puede escuchar el ritmo de la ciudad y los campos externos junto con los acordes creados a partir de esa realidad, formando una misma tonalidad de sonidos que quedan en un estado intermedio. La mayoría de las veces las armonías se quedan estáticas, quietas en un punto determinado, las que se mueven gracias a pequeños destellos de luz que se filtran por las rendijas de esos acordes. Lo que se oye no son precisamente formas con una cierta estructura determinada, sino más bien ideas vagas que se pierden en las ramas de luminosidad y fragmentos de ruido, extraviadas en el entorno y el movimiento cotidiano. De nuevo la luz se presenta como un planteamiento que se esconde detrás de esta obra. “La palabra japonesa ボケ味 (‘boke-aji’) se relaciona con una “cualidad de desenfoque” y es conocida como una técnica fotográfica con la cual puntos de luz fuera de foco son procesados por ciertos lentes. Puedes obtener un buen o mal bokeh lo cual a menudo se refiere al nivel de distracción de la imagen, con la buena por supuesto realzando de alguna manera la imagen en su propia y misteriosa forma. Ciertamente, bokeh se considera una anormalidad óptica. Para robar una cita final: ‘Las anormalidades ocurren debido a que la teoría paraxial no es un modelo completamente exacto del efecto de un sistema óptico sobre la luz, más que debido a las imperfecciones en los sistemas ópticos’. ¿No es esa una maravillosa manera de ver las cosas en la vida misma? Como una suerte de perspectiva bokeh. No existe modelos completamente exactos de cómo vemos las cosas, y ‘Bokeh’ lo demuestra perfectamente en su propia tranquila forma lo individuales y únicas nuestras ópticas son”. Tan pronto como se pueden sentir los primeros sonidos desplegados por Wil, tan pronto como se puede sentir el sonido que la ciudad desprende de manera habitual. Una percusión de metal, el golpeteo de un mineral solidificado se une al motor en movimiento que se desplaza por las calles, todos detalles que se posan encima de una línea de armonía casi inmóvil, un mismo tono que permanece por diez minutos mientras las variaciones van rodeando esta musicalidad vespertina. “Bokeh” tiene el aroma de la mañana, el paisaje urbano que despierta con la luz que lentamente avanza de forma vertical desde el horizonte. El brillo del día pronto se ve envuelto en el clima gris. Al lado de los sonidos de metal frágil se percibe la rítmica perfecta de la precipitación caer sobre el suelo. “Tremadog”es sobre todo la música de la lluvia que tiene su propia estructura auditiva. “1887”persiste en las notas estáticas insertas en la vida que crece en la arquitectura residencial, estruendo que se quedan invariables y las aves sobre las aceras de cemento. Son esos elementos los que le imprimen movilidad a estas creaciones de la existencia diaria, como la voz de la multitud en “Sash”, la hermosa quietud que transita entre el murmullo indescifrable. Las palabras siguen estando en “Pentaprism”, otra hermosa versión del estruendo inamovible rodeado del destello intermitente de luz. Esa es precisamente la estructura de este trabajo: el soplo de la ciudad cubierto de electrónica, un resplandor que tiembla sobre la superficie de estabilidad armónica.“Moonlight (For Sophie)” es aún más tranquila, con una belleza que emana de su naturaleza digital.

“A blur quality”. No depende tanto de la cantidad del desenfoque sino de como este se desarrolle. Una visión imprecisa y subjetiva de la belleza que queda detrás de una imagen cuyos colores se pierden entre sí. “Bokeh” es un trabajo donde Wil Bolton disuelve las formas de acústicas divergentes, las que convergen en una misma textura borrosa. Si bien existen ciertos sonidos que se pueden separar, murmullos que es posible disgregar, la confusión de la vida en la ciudad y objetos que emiten armonías es mayor. El resplandor del ruido digital se enreda con las melodías del bucólico paisaje urbano.” – Hawai

“An artist in sound, video, and photography, Wil Bolton‘s music is always rich in texture as well as human and environmental connections. His summer release on Home Normal entitled Bokeh is a wonderful addition to his body of work and one that that had a very specific motif:

The album’s title obviously refers to a photographic term, deriving from the Japanese word for blur and used to describe the aesthetic quality of background blur in photographs especially with a shallow depth of field. My work is often informed by visual cues, particularly from the landscapes and architecture of the environments where their initial sounds were recorded. For this album I was particularly interested in parallels between the aural and the visual and between photography and sound – it’s pretty abstract, but when working on these tracks I was constantly thinking in terms of photography, qualities and effects of light, and other visual elements and trying to express these in sound …” 

Like its namesake, the title track is diffuse and captivating, an exquisite piece of sound craft. Gentle drones ebb and buzz as Bolton creates a sense of light and color through percussive bells and chimes. As it progresses, sounds of city life slowly introduce themselves and become part of the music such as the Doppler effect of running engines and tires rolling by in the rain, or the hiss and gasp of a stopping bus.

This approach is repeated through the album, but the tones and sounds vary for each track, thus creating a different mood and sense of place in each case. ‘Tremadog’ incorporates sounds captured in a picturesque Welsh village. ‘1887’ and ‘Sash’ bring the listener back to the city, namely Liverpool, the former invoking street sounds and the later a mild cacophony of voices indoors. ‘Pentaprism’ takes the listener on a walk about the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.  In every piece the sounds of the environment blend seamlessly with the music, capturing motion and activity while preserving a sense of stillness and objectivity. It is as if we are experiencing these places through the camera eye.

The album then ends on a charming and magical note with ‘Moonlight (for Sophie)’ in which Bolton recorded and looped sounds from his niece’s toy telephone and rattles. With the din of the day’s sounds faded away, it wraps the listener in a cocoon of soft light and the comforts of home, a perfect way to end the journey.

Bokeh was mastered by Ian Hawgood for his Home Normal label and is available as a digital download or in a limited edition on CD packaged with locally cultivated and harvested washi paper cover and a unique vintage slide.” – Stationary Travels