The difficulty in composing a piece of music that is inspired by, or directly about a specific location, is that when the composition is perceived outside of its geographical context, it can often lose it’s emotional significance. Compositions that use field recordings as a major part of their sound palate often suffer from this problem. Field recordings contain specific auditory reference points to their place of origin and source, if the listener has to work to unravel these connections their emotional engagement with the composition can suffer.
Wil Bolton’s new release ‘Kollane’, made during a residency at the Estonian Artists’ Association in Tallinn, does not suffer from this problem.
As with the majority of Bolton’s output under his own name, field recordings are an integral part of the sound palette. What makes them work in this context is the restraint he shows in their use. He does not attempt to document the city in its auditory entirety, but instead uses field recordings to give voice to his place within the city’s ecosystem, presenting an intimate snapshot of his own experiences.
The precise control on display in this piece is remarkable; Bolton fragments and submerges melody among beds of droning ambient textures provoking a nebula of emotions, unidentified, buried, hidden. This gives the piece a melancholic familiarity, as if the narrative is responding to the listener’s own memories and experiences.
Coming to an end at the 47-minute mark, ‘Kollane’ is also long. It needs to be. This paean to Tallinn sees Bolton in duet with the city, responding to its transients with minute adjustments of timbre, density, and volume. Intricacies are revealed in slow tidal movements that provoke submission to the sound, whilst field recordings provide regular points of departure that strengthen the narrative and stop the piece from becoming too static.
‘Kollane’ is a fascinating account of Wil Bolton’s residency in Tallinn. It is an oneiric journey through the fabric of a city where the exploration of the areas sonic topography blurs the boundaries between the personal and the universal and sits comfortably in a discography that gets more impressive with each release.
‘Kollane’ is released on Time Released Sound and is available here.