Under the solo production aliases Cheju and Mint, Wil Bolton and Murray Fisher have both separately established a firm presence amongst the UK IDM electronic scene, but this latest album ‘Cloud Bands And Arabesques’ on their own Boltfish label sees them rejoining forces on the studio as Biotron Shelf for the long awaited follow-up to their 2006 debut on U-Cover ’33 Minutes North.’ What’s particularly noticeable upon listening to the ten tracks collected here is just how much the duo’s stylistic boundaries have expanded in the intervening years. There’s still a distinct leaning towards the crystalline melodic IDM landscapes the duo have previously established a reputation for, with ‘Three Ten To Euston’ sending trailing bright melodic synths and moody, questing bass pads gliding against a rapid-fire backdrop of chaotically ratcheting breakbeat rhythms, the scatter-shot timestretching nicely counterpointing the entrance of slow, lazy keys, while ‘Butternut Squash’ takes twinkling melodic keys and airy ambient pads and sends them floating over a twitchy backing of contorted metallic rhythms that grind back and forth like bursts of noise between the speakers, the emergence of bright 8-bit synths casting a wistful nostalgic glow upon proceedings.
In many senses though, it’s the ventures into more atypical territory that offer up some of the biggest highlights here. ‘A Tree Without Birds’ sees the duo paring back the obvious electronics in favour of sampled live instrumentation, with lazily strummed acoustic guitars and bass moving to the forefront Ã¢â‚¬â€œ though bleeping synth textures do begin to worm their way back into the rhythmic undergrowth towards the very end, while ‘Formless Geometry’ offers up the one real concession to the dancefloor to be found here, taking things off on a vaguely proggy seven minute wander through flickering minimalist tech-house rhythms and brooding bass melodies that sits closer to the sorts of forlorn post-club atmospherics you’d associate with the likes of Ulrich Schnauss. Characteristically strong and diverse stuff that’s well worth investigation.