‘Inscriptions’ is an album inspired by the melancholy romance of autumn, the reflection of leaves in the rippling surface of a lake, crumbling architectural facades, and faded ink scripts on parchment.
The album began with a collection of environmental sounds I recorded in Tallinn, Estonia back in the autumn of 2011, during a residency at the Estonian Artists’ Association. These field recordings focus in on the quiet, everyday sounds of streets, parks, a lake and a town square.
I lived with these sounds for some time, before working on the album. In spring 2013, I began to record the instrumental sounds. I started working with loops I lifted from the quietest sections of old dusty charity shop records – the sounds of piano, strings and harp, half-buried in hiss and crackle. I re-pitched, stretched, edited and processed these loops with guitar pedals and laptop effects. Then over this bed of loops, I recorded layers of digitally treated instrumental parts, played on acoustic guitar, piano and analogue and digital synths. I finished mixing the tracks in autumn 2013.
Released by Dronarivm on CD in discbox slider, 14 September 2015.
Written, produced and mastered by Wil Bolton
Curated by Bartosz Dziadosz (Pleq)
Layout design by Dmitry Taldykin & Ekaterina Plushbearcat
Texture images by Evelyn Flint / Daydreaming Images and fotolog
“Wil Bolton certainly has a way of capturing the aura and stillness of a place in music. Self-described as “an artist who works predominantly in sound”, his pieces are very much like sonic portraits that harness light, color, and texture with such patience and attention to detail that the listener can almost see and touch them, even inhabit them. His latest full length record released on the Dronarivm label, Inspirations, began with a collection of environmental sounds collected in Tallinn, Estonia during an artist residency there in 2011.
Like an artist painting a cityscape on canvas, Bolton also had to choose not just a location, but a perspective that would influence the colors and shadings which would frame the mood. ForInscriptions, he wanted to convey “the melancholy romance of autumn, the reflection of leaves in the rippling surface of a lake, crumbling architectural facades, and faded ink scripts on parchment”.
We can imagine the slanted, golden light of autumn dancing on the calm surface of the water. We can feel the cool rush of wind channeled down a narrow street pushing out the last vestiges of summer’s warmth. We hear the music of brittle leaves skittering across the cobblestones. We can imagine standing in the shadows of ancient structures inhabited by stories told and untold. We hear, see, and feel this place through the eyes of the artist. WithInscriptions, Wil Bolton gives us a place to linger, contemplate, and dream on an endless afternoon.” – Stationary Travels
“The sun is hiding behind thick clouds. Rain falls from the skies. Squirrels are searching for nuts and migratory birds are getting ready to flee the cold winter that lies ahead. Yes, it’s almost autumn. The perfect moment to gather in a warm place, preferably near an open fire. I love autumn. I enjoy the temporary decay of nature, the way it prepares for hibernation. I love the smell of rain and I love the sound of the wind through the leafless trees.
Wil Bolton seems to understand the autumn-feeling perfectly. This sound-architect and multi-instrumentalist from London, UK succeeded in grabbing that emotion and translating it into a beautiful album. Field recordings, antique loops and acoustic instruments come together in an immersive set of tracks, perfectly illustrating the warm but solitary atmosphere of this season. ‘Inscriptions’ is a great soundtrack for a stroll through a forest and that’s exactly what I’ll be doing this autumn.
The album gently opens with title track ‘Inscriptions’. As the ones following, this track drives on a number of soundscapes and some unidentified noises, hidden in the background. At this point I’d obviously categorise this as a drone-ambient album, similar to artists like Dirk Serries, Evan Caminiti or Stars of the Lid. Subtle variations in the layers of sound give the song a sense of evolution. Same goes for the other tracks actually. There’s aren’t a lot of differences between them but the end result is fascinating.
‘Hedera’ shows a hint of rhythm within the drony overtones and a hint of melody with the free floating acoustics. It’s a strange, mysterious track but nonetheless a pleasure to listen to. ‘Seep’ shows the old vinyl loops, functioning as a foundation for another set of drones, soundscapes and acoustic instruments. The cracking of the vinyl is beautiful. It gives the whole a nice, warm feeling, a bit like a lit fireplace can do. Oh, how I’d love to own a fireplace…
My love for decay doesn’t restrict itself to nature in autumn. It’s also present in architecture. I love ruins of ancient buildings, whether it is cathedrals, old military forts or abandoned factories. They all breathe a mythical atmosphere of historic events and activities which we can’t grab anymore. The same basically goes for ‘Cathedral’, another great song of decay and desolation but without words. ‘Limestone’ closes the album by returning most of the elements of the previous tracks and combining them into a massive piece of drone-ambient. Here too the subtle variations make the whole thing grow and fade.
This album will be played a lot in the next few months, probably in playlists where Biosphere, O Yuki Conjugate and Steve Roach also appear. It will also be played through my headphones, when I enjoy a lonely walk through the woods at night. I suggest you do the same. We all need to go out and enjoy nature while we’re listening to something better than passing cars, planes and the noise of drunken teenagers. If we’d do that, the world would be a much better place…” – Merchants Of Air
“London’s Wil Bolton has spent a wealth of time and care finishing off his new album, ‘Inscriptions’. Initially beginning with simple loops lifted from the quietest sections of charity shop records, Bolton delicately shifted and stretched the cracked sounds of piano, strings and harps into an altogether new series of sounds. Layer by layer, he processed the loops and added his own flair and orchestrations, incorporating new guitar chords, piano keys, and flourishes of synths. In the autumn of 2013, the tracks were finally mixed and ready to shine, and now, come September 14th, ‘Inscriptions’ will be available for all to hear.
Although only five tracks long, ‘Inscriptions’ is an incredibly expansive release. Each song lingers well past six minutes in length and spread far beyond the known limits of the instruments. Inspired by the melancholy romance of autumn, there are moments of dawning beauty in the opening, titular track that echo with the feelings of brisk mornings surrounded by falling leaves. It’s the organic feel of ‘Inscriptions’ that is initially so striking. As songs transition, the warmth and soul within stays relatively constant, and through sounds might ebb and flow, the intrigue is rarely lost.
The combination of vintage, static filled sounds with pristine, modern melodies makes for a pleasing contrast, particularly in ‘Seep’. The evolution from charity shop records to contemporary ambiance is an impressive feat, as well as a commendable form of art, but sadly its reach only extends so far, and as the songs linger, the intrigue slowly begins to fade. The initial melodic droning that accompanies songs such as ‘Cathedral’ carry far longer than necessary, and as the tracks encroach passed eight minutes, their consistency of sounds errs far too close banality.
Impressive as the album might be, the balance between unfolding soundscapes and constant droning occasionally falls just too far from an entertaining equilibrium, and as the final track of ‘Limestone’ finally fades away, you can’t help but wonder what effect shorter, more numerous songs might hold.” – Anthem Review
“It’s the time of the year when the leaves begin changing color, the wind starts having an extra bite to it’s howls and the Sun is losing the battle of how long it can maintain itself in the sky. The season begins as a calming embrace from the scorching heat of the past three months before leading head on into the next cruel season. Wil Bolton is a drone musical artist out of the UK who dedicated his entire new LP, Inscriptions, to the Autumnal season.
Embedded in the warm synth sounds are actual recordings of the environment during the season. ‘Hedera’ is one track I could pick out the bird chirps more frequently among the peaceful static. When it came time for adding instruments to nature, Bolton used old instruments that had been buried in dust; having their own unique character and crackle to them. This tonal quality gives the piano more of an ominous presence, with each note having a lot of weight to ‘Hedera.’
‘Cathedral’ is a track featuring guitars and harps to take the moody tone into a more vibrant atmosphere. The song is again filled with warm analogue driven synths that help give the harps more presence, not becoming too much of a presence to drown everything out. ‘Seep’ is the same way, except being laced over with a consistent static that gives the environmental sounds more risk as they break through the barrier of music. It’s ethereal how everything sounds when it is layered together.
Inscriptions is a solid drone album considering the concept of the record. Being released at the advent of the season helps set the mood even more. The release is being distributed through DRONARIVM, an established drone record label out of Moscow. Wil Bolton is only their latest release of exceptionally well crafted albums. 7.5/10″ – The Alternative
“The other office goons are having a raucous indie disco behind the review station, so this is the perfect time to take five and slip into those pyjamas and put on Wil Bolton’s latest thing Inscriptions. I will quote our serial describer Tom once more for this, because it couldn’t be better put – this album is “built from tantalising materials”. It began as an experiment to make droney loops out of the quiet bits of dusty ol’ charity shop records, so there’s your crispy base. It’s then topped with various synths both warm and cold, the rich sauce. Add biting acoustic guitar and piano and you’ve got an absolutely delicious pizza. Record! Record.
There’s a permanent crackly fog present on Inscriptions, a remnant of a once meaningful message through time, a statement of an everlasting art that defies, even embraces, decay. Layers of these are so multitudinous they form a deep, maximal drone world with a constant unfurling of detail. It sort of sounds like either dawn or dusk, one of those dimly-lit transitional periods of the day, drenched in dew and obscurity. I swear I can hear creatures calling in the distance. This is great, sort of like the recent Hibernate stuff. But with more creatures. 8/10″ – Norman Records
“Inscriptions is a piece of driftwood. Content to simply exist, falling slack into the tide of sensation. Complying with the movement of nature, enacting a dialogue between consciously directed sound (or “music”, if you will), and the organic flux of field recording. Bolton performs through the act of listening. His guitar strums are delicate, as though his hand is being swung by the gusts of autumnal breeze, while the melodies materialise as minor keys that sway gently back and forth, exciting the noise of dehydrated leaves as they pass through. Gradually, he renders himself as a figment of the environment, as essential to the landscape as those pale placid lakes and crisp, awakening autumn temperatures.
Bolton has also devised a wonderful means through which to channel the season’s association with decay and fading light. Re-sampled records wink with erosion and hum from beneath the dust, serene and yet somewhat dramatic for how they chart the slope into eventual death. Inscriptions glows with the glory of a former state – that vivacious burst of summer – and carries itself graciously, slowly, into monochromatic dormancy. Within the lingering contemplation of these pieces, licked with the flare of electronics, the crack of dying wood and fluid plectrum cascades, I remember to be present and relish the state of seasonal transition, like taking pleasure in how grains of sand pour out between the gaps of my fingers. Inscriptions is no longer what was. Inscriptions is not yet what it will be.” – ATTN:Magazine
“Wil Bolton’s contribution to Dronarivm’s catalogue is very much in line with the previous releases the Moscow-based label has issued. With field recordings and ambient-drone soundscaping the foundation upon which Inscriptions is built, the release makes for a perfect label fit. As far as the project’s development is concerned, the field recordings came first, with Bolton (who hails from London, UK) collecting everyday sounds of a lake, a town square, streets, and parks during an autumn 2011 residency at the Estonian Artists’ Association in Tallinn. In early 2013, he turned his attention to the instrumental dimension of the project by generating loops of piano, strings and harp taken from “old, dusty charity shop records.” Using guitar pedals and laptop effects, extensive processing treatments were applied, resulting in a densely detailed base over which acoustic guitar, piano, and analogue and digital synthesizers were added.
It’s no surprise, then, that the five settings on the album are ultra-rich in detail, Bolton having woven the various elements into material so layered it verges on opaque. While instrument sounds audibly intone on the surface, underneath are molasses-thick masses of ever-mutating design; an identifiable element does regularly separate itself from the mass—a bird call, traffic noise, or child’s voice, for example—but for the most part the base flows like some blurry organism.
In the title track, relaxed acoustic strums merge with willowy ambient textures and field recordings, while in “Seed,” shadings of acoustic guitar and phase-treated electric guitar intermingle with textures of crackle and hiss and the faint cries of children at play. Of the recording’s five settings, it might be the final one, “Limestone,” that’s the most becalmed. A crackling noise aside, the music otherwise drifts with the utmost serenity, its celestial harp strums and gauzy glow punctuated by sounds of the seashore and distant bird calls. It’s hard not to think of a faded family Polaroid taken at some local town beach at such moments, and when a string instrument flutters through the haze-smothered loops of “Cathedral,” one begins to gauge the distance separating Bolton and Marsen Jules as very small indeed.
There’s a serenading tone to the material on Inscriptions that’s reinforced by the autumnal melancholy that no doubt Bolton experienced during his Tallinn stay. Some ambient-drone soundscapes exude a chilly and barren quality consistent with their dystopic, end-of-the-world themes; Bolton’s, by comparison, are invitingly warmed by nostalgia and fading memories, as well as the wistful feeling the fall season engenders in so many of us.” – Textura
“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.” – Music Is Good