Lending human touch and natural affect to his synthetic instrumentals, Bothy’s third release, Sacrificed You, finds Alan Wilson developing an elegant electronic craft all his own. Every track offers fluid, effortless beats accompanied by melancholic yet innocent melodies, as subtle rhythmic and tonal variations help fill out the longer track lengths. If this album were a canvas, imagine a nocturnal blue scene matched with rich, textured brush strokes.
At its structural core, Bothy’s style of downtempo swaps between slowly adding compositional layers and abruptly stripping them away, from a distant sample to an entire lead instrument. “I’m Not Steady” makes the best of both, as the first half pairs a bare, funky groove with a set of hollow, breathy pads, which eventually breaks into a jazzy piano that playfully meanders about.
Bothy’s knack for blending naturalistic, human elements within a controlled, synthetic environment is on full display through the track’s juxtaposition between an improvisational piano and rigid, electronic beat. “Smoke Break” – its chopped-up woodwinds buzzing away behind a breezy, tropical keyboard lead – or the album opener’s whirring percussion and shy synth both flow with such grace and ease that one forgets they’re manipulated and assembled on a laptop.
There’s a great duality at play across Sacrificed You. Clearly these instrumentals have been laboured over, fine-tuned through complex layering and editing, but when heard, each track is masterfully simple and straightforward, as no sonic detail reads out of place or strained.
The album offers a hazy melancholia: one of isolation and reconciliation for that which has passed and that which is to come. Obviously, a personal projection but Bothy’s instrumentals provide that type of curious sonic playground to cautiously survey and wander throughout.
With stark, nocturnal instrumentals and emotionally moving transitional pieces, Bothy strikes a meditative match that burns bright across Sacrificed You. As Wilson himself states, the album “is dedicated to debts owed and debts paid.” Hopefully, he has a few less to pay with this excellent piece of work.
Top Tracks: “I’m Not Steady”; “1993”; “Smoke Break”; “Everything Unravel”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)