Review: Wil Bolton – Under A Name That Hides Her

Once you know that the musical influences of Bolton’s youth are embedded in this album, it’s hard not to smile as they all start to magically pop up at the fore. Those rich, jangly strums suddenly sound as though they’ve been ripped away from a particularly melancholic Smiths track and strung out into slow motion, wallowing in the minor-key resolve of one resonant chord instead of chopping in a catchy sequence between three or four. The guitar haze that blurs rhythm into mush begin to resemble those FX-drenched bursts that spew all over My Bloody Valentine’s jams on Loveless. Nostalgia is a theme that emerges frequently within ambient music – commonly using distortion and processing as a means of conveying the obscuring of memory through time, as Bolton has done here – but viewing childhood listening habits through the nostalgia frame certainly makes for an interesting basis. This is a nostalgia that both tunnels into Bolton’s personal memory and also spills itself open for listener empathy, potentially taking its audience back to their own teenage record collection and thus allowing them to peer at the album’s inspiratory roots.

Nonetheless, it’s a concept that always teases with its provocation of intrigue. I can only speculate as to how Bolton has incorporated these influences, but which elements of these artists’ sounds really penetrated for Bolton? Which aspects stayed prominent and vivid in the mind throughout the years, and which aspects fell into the mire of lost details within the mass of ever-changing human memory? Clearly, their journey through Bolton’s retrospect – and then further on through the processes of Bolton’s own creative outlook and compositional choices – has shaped them into drastically different forms, leaving only tiny glimmers of the original sound studded across the crackly tidal flow and glitchy streams running through his music. And then there are the field recordings that cast tangible locations as the backdrop to the trawl through Bolton’s mercurial memory state: rich flutters of birdsong at a castle in Beaumaris, the sturdy crash of waves in Anglesey and the relentless patter of rainwater on the window of his Liverpool flat. Once again, intrigue abounds. Perhaps these are the places in which Bolton finds himself most overcome by nostalgic thought? Such questions keep this reviewer entertained enough, but when setting context aside and simply listening, the album holds up all the same; here’s a composer with a careful and mesmeric handling of his sonic elements, resulting in a work rich in breathing space and an intimately penetrative natural resonance, edged into the realms of imaginative abstraction through the slightest sheets of digital fizz.