Through a Musical Lens: Sumida Colours by Wil Bolton

London based artist & musician Wil Bolton truly is a global citizen, often weaving environmental sounds from places all around the world into his electroacoustic soundscapes. Previous albums have referenced locations ranging from close to home in Britain to continental cities like Vienna, and Budapest all the way to the Arabian Sea and points east. Earlier this year his Cumulus Sketches offered a contemplative sky-faring journey set against the backdrop of rural & urban sounds collected in South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong & Sri Lanka and now he returns just months later with another beautifully conceived travelogue rooted in a visit to Sumida, a special ward in the metropolis of Tokyo that is the birthplace of Hokusai. Using environmental recordings and instruments collected during his stay, Bolton came up with an especially creative concept for referencing the colors used in the renowned artist’s most famous woodblock print and tying them to his own experience of the local surroundings.

The title track began by assigning six colours from the palette of Hokusai’s woodblock print ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ to six notes of a musical scale. I then walked the streets of Sumida, taking a photograph each time I saw one of these colours in the details and textures of everyday scenery, and created a musical score from the order in which these colours appeared.

Bolton weaves these color-keyed notes together with the sounds of Sumida’s streets, his trademark delicate guitar textures, and the tintinnabulations of a toy glockenspiel, bells, and furin (wind chimes) to create seven serenely meandering meditations that, in aggregate, form a portrait of the city in sound from a unique perspective. Bolton has produced so much fine work over the years, it is hard to pick favorites, but for me this album is among his most inspired and is surely on the short list.


Sumida Colours is available digitally and on limited edition CD from Italy based Krysalisound. The album was mastered by Frances M. Gri and features artwork by Wil himself.

Links: Bandcamp (CD/digital) | Wil Bolton