Cheju: Broken Waves

Wil Bolton's Cheju material is always compositionally solid and impeccably crafted and his third CD album's no different. Interestingly, Broken Waves is the first full-length the Boltfish Recordings co-owner has released on his own label, with 2006's Pica and 2007's Diode having been issued by Unlabel and U-Cover respectively. The latest collection is pretty much what we've come to expect from the Cheju style: crunchy electronic beat programming and gleaming analogue synth melodies wrapped in synthetic gauze and arranged into tight, six-minute frameworks. Par for the genre, Broken Waves is also overstuffed at seventy-nine minutes in length with three of its fifteen tracks given over to specially commissioned remixes (in this case, Boltfish artists Reason or Romanza, Electricwest, and Preston ). (For the record, Broken Waves isn't a singularly-conceived work but a selection of 2005-08 tracks from sold-out limited-edition releases on Static Caravan, October man, Smallfish, Unlabel, Herb, and Boltfish.)

If there's anything different about the current Cheju model in comparison to its earlier incarnation, it's perhaps a willingness on Bolton's part to allow more grit and grime to seep into the material than ever before—a positive move given how much the noise textures provide a welcome counterpoint to the pristine melodic dimension (heard in “Closing In,” for example, when the track's wistful melodies are offset by a textural flow of crackle and static). It's not a move he always makes, however, as the ultra-smooth “Blanchot” proves with its lush mix of silken strings and lilting synthesizer melodies. The pretty and serenading side of the Cheju style also comes to the fore in “Pachinko” which arranges harp-like Asian melodies, atmospheric synth washes, and crunchy beats into a transporting whole, and a similar restrained handling of material characterizes “Bracken” too. On the more aggressive side, there are tracks such as “Object Not Found,” which counters the grime of hammering beat patterns with the gleam of chiming keyboard melodies, the arcade rumble of “Conduit,” and “Hikari,” whose heavy beat flurries hit hard too. The album's most anomalous venture is “Moiré,” which builds itself around a light-footed dance of wispy, heavily-processed piano tones. It's an electroacoustic dimension that Bolton would be wise to explore further as doing so will enable him to open up the Cheju style even more in his future work.

March 2009