Cheju: Diode

Michael Santos: Soft Pocket

Wil Bolton (aka Cheju) certainly must be one of the most prolific artists operating today. Each month, it seems, sees the release of another collection of high-quality melodic electronic music and this month's no exception. Diode follows up Bolton's recent Foil 3-inch U-cover release with ten more maximalist settings of swooning atmospheres, chiming keyboard melodies, warm synth tones, and crunchy broken beats. The release's most distinguishing characteristic is its oft-exotic ambiance. It may simply be compositional sleight of hand, but the stately oriental melodies that emerge within certain songs (“Run in Lead,” “Indirection”) certainly suggest that Bolton either visited Japan recently or immersed himself in its culture. When not evoking the Far East, Bolton's album includes panoramic combinations of elegant whirr-and-click and midtempo funk grooves (“Lammergeyer,” “Diode”), a somber beatless setting with interwoven patterns of an almost classical character (“Lost Twice Over”), and hazy atmospheres and gleaming synths that create a nostalgic vibe one associates with Boards of Canada (“Begin To Fall”). Bolton makes the production of textured elegance seem like the easiest thing in the world.

Londoner Michael Santos's own U-cover outing, Soft Pocket, is a radically different kind of animal. In contrast to Bolton's beat-based tracks, Santos favours organic, textural soundscaping of a particularly meditative and flowing type. An embodiment of his style, “Peak” turns both quiet and reflective as it embeds processed guitar recordings in ripples and snowy flurries of static and hiss. Sonically, Fennesz and Oval are obvious touchstones but Santos's material is rooted in warm and gentle melodic structures; the simple themes at the center of his heavily textured tracks reach towards beauty, not abrasion; even when a more violent guitar sound is present (in “Different Draft”), it's submerged within an ultra-dense mass that unfurls in a graceful, wave-like motion. The closer, “Gesture,” presents a magnificent culmination of Santos's style. The piece rises to an epic pitch almost immediately in a style that recalls No Pussyfooting more than Endless Summer. The pieces themselves are admirably succinct and the same can be said too for the forty-minute Soft Pocket; of course, it's natural that soundscapes should be ten minutes or more but how refreshing it is to hear them realized in short-story rather than novel form too.

June 2007