The Screaming Pope - Correct Picture Color (Album Review)


Bostonian electronic music producer George Bolton started the musical project The Screaming Pope just before Covid hit. By operating around steadfast drums, whimsical virtual instrumentation, and a desire to create motivating atmospheres that are also downbeat, Bolton has etched a niche corner for himself in the electronic music world. Despite working in electronic music since 1979, Bolton embraces new technologies, incorporating AI-generated vocal samples into his under-the-radar techno beats. These samples add some perplexing moments of uncanny valley naturalism, mirroring the humanistic intuition with which the electronic sounds have been composed. 

A prolific composer, Bolton hasn't sacrificed quality for quantity. Instead, he has released seven (yes, seven) carefully considered albums (according to the artist, his wife is in charge of quality control). The recent album, "Correct Picture Color", might be a flagship of the project thus far.

 An art school graduate, Bolton designed the nostalgic cover for this collection. Indeed, an artistic flair is present across this collection, which never reaches intense levels of experimentation or chin-stroking, but also never succumbs to the allure of background muzak, something which these pieces seem capable of veering towards, whether that be through the samples of rivers and birdsongs on the hypnotic "The Mountains" or the Arabian-tinged milquetoast of "Desert Heat".

Where Bolton is most effective is when his loops jump out of the stereo with bite instead of a French kiss, like on the blistering snare drum of the ridiculously-titled "Accidental Mullet" (the art pop sentiments of which fortified with space-synth for good measure), "Wheel of Destiny", which is blisteringly fast and bright, and "Machines Making Machines Work For Me", which brings an acidic Europop dance floor cool to Bolton's more wandering keys work. 

Even when The Screaming Pope takes his foot off the pedal, it can have its charm. "On the Wind" creates new age serenity with gentle spoken word, earthy hand percussions, and softly sustained tones which play like birds soaring through an open blue sky. 

While "Correct Picture Color" by The Screaming Pope may sometimes sway towards the innocuous, there's enough imagination here to ensure it's never a dull ride. Such ingenuity is not present in the arrangements, instrumentation, or use of technology but in reimagining what a song can be. Bolton is unrestrained by preconceived notions and memes of what constitutes "good" electronic music, preferring to investigate for himself, discovering some gems in the ether.