Biotron Shelf: 33 Minutes North

Cheju: Partition
October Man

Cheju: Pica

Richard Houghten: Microscopic Jigglings

The Boltfish crew mustn't sleep, or at least that's the conclusion one might reach when confronted by the incessant flow of new material produced by its artists; Cheju and Mint seem especially tireless in this regard, as the following largesse indicates. The Unlabel release, incidentally, represents one in an album series issued by the label, with one album released each week during 2006. (Which begs the question: Is there a need for 52 such albums?)

Wil Bolton's Cheju EP Partition arrives distinctively, encased within a gold-patterned cream-coloured sleeve and its tracks pressed onto a gleaming orange disk. The music itself? The London-based composer and Boltfish co-owner acquits himself well in that regard, with the 24-minute disc housing five elegantly-crafted exercises in deep, reverberant electronica. Its moods range from the wiry drone “Outdubstarn” (fellow Boltfish compadre Mint concludes the disc with an equally pulsating, acidy, and jittery 'Octane' remix of same) to the more reflective “Sundial” where Bolton energizes stuttering shimmer with clicking beats and flickering melodies. Similarly contrasting, the EP opens with the elegant drama of “Data Packet” and a mix of heaving guitar masses and crunchy down-tempo rhythms but also veers into sunkissed Isan territory with the quietly jubilant “Casiotonic,” where glistening melodies billow over a faded base of squelchy funk.

Cheju drops eight more tracks on his Pica contribution to the Unlabel series, with his set characterized by a slightly heavier and stripped-down synths-and-beats sound. Throughout the disc, Bolton spins, with seeming effortlessness, ultra-melodic variations using a minimal number of elements yet the results reveal no drop in quality or lack of imagination. Elegant pieces like “Stylet” and “Little by Little” exude a churchy ambiance while blistered breaks offset sparkling melodies in the title cut, “Flutter,” and the somber “Object Not Found.” Stick around for the closer, “Pica Reprise,” where Cheju re-imagines the title track as a chiming cloud of heavenly ambient.

Equally solid is 33 Minutes North, a collection of warm, melodic soundscapes released by Bolton and Fisher under the name Biotron Shelf. With each piece flowing into the next, the ten tracks seem more a suite than unrelated pieces, making for a satisfying travelogue effect. Much like the music associated with the Boltfish label, the pieces here unfurl with graceful calm and are rarely dissonant or abrasive, though the throbbing “She Gave Me Dark Thoughts” and grindfest “Broken Transmission” ooze their share of ominous portent. “Offshore” and the mournful “Spindle” exude an inviting, almost orchestral sweep while the title cut roots the duo's sound in a lush electronic terrain of minimal beats and silken textures. The disc's most striking piece, however, is “Displacement” which slowly swells into a grandiose hymn of vaporous ambient, bringing this elegant set to a compelling close.

Following 2005's Slow Poke, Microscopic Jigglings is Seattle-based Richard Houghten's second EP of electronic-acoustic material for Boltfish. “All Pieces” opens the 3-inch disc with a bubbly commingling of acoustic (strings, live drums) and electronic elements, while the more stereotypical “Power Slide” opts for a familiar up-tempo electronic style with animated beats and staccato synth patterns kicking up dust, the Eno-styled synth accents near song's end the best thing about it. Houghten shows more originality in “3 Chairs” where gently propulsive hip-hop breaks accompany string figures and an unusual creaking accent, and then passes the reigns to Biotron Shelf for a restrained, crackle-laden “Salvo” remix filled with atmospheric field noises.

July 2006