Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Richard Skelton: Landings

Between releases as A Broken Consort and under his own name, Richard Skelton has issued forth a plethora of releases in the past 3 years, Landings being the latest on Type Records. Much of his material stems from a deep, aphotic and mourning place in his heart and mind still dealing with the loss of his wife (one can only assume this based on the still-present dedications on album jackets). Much of these albums 'sound the same' due to a firmly entrenched sense of style on Skelton's part: jittering, junk-sick violins dancing in circles of tribal prayer around a center of more immersive, fire hot and plodding strings (cello and viola? sometimes guitar). All of this is submerged in a layer of seemingly undisturbable dust in light. His albums are often long pauses caught while looking at old photographs with scratches on the paper's surface or cracked corners. So, this guileless sameness from one album to another links them tighter artistically and elevates them, rather than diminishes their value, because this is an ongoing document of tribute. And ongoing documents of tribute are not all too uncommon. We can continue to mourn even if we have "moved on" and that is exactly what tribute is. Tribute is often defined by its testimonial action and Skelton seems to be continuing to testify as to the love he and his wife possessed together and the beauty he was afforded to witness.
With Landings, however, the album seems even more personal in its testimony, as if this were the sound he heard as he sat, alone, by a river contemplating her face, the light playing through her hair. On "Green Withins Brooks" for example, the song is started by just placid field recordings of a small stream, which leads into a very sparse ambient peace that lacks the vibrating, pulsating violins and large wooden room feel. It is clearly a piece of music outside in the cold air, staring straight through its quickly disappearing breath. And then with "Of the Last Generation" the violins and ligneous enclosure return with barely a creak to break the meditative flow. The pinnacle of emotional punch on this album (which is an odd thing for a Skelton release...again, that's a good thing) comes at the end of Side 3, "Pariah." This song scrapes and stammers and repeats itself into an acoustic analogue of what Jan Jelinek did on Kosmischer Pitch.
As with Marking Time, Skelton's work is magnificent in a way that the atom-smashing intersection of love and tragedy, pain and grace alone can stand to produce and offer to the universe. Not only that, but the packaging is sublimely rustic. It has a keen, underplayed newness to its design (it is on Type Records afterall folks!), but retains an old soul quality that would conceal its identity while sitting on a record shelf of 40 years prior in the past.
A sure recommendation!
Score: 7.75/10

Goodbye Yellow Brick Guilt

It seems that with the recession (which still happens to effect the entire world), American holiday advertisement pushes cheep wares as advantageous just a few years removed from our own feigned concern with sweat shops and boycotting buying products that support such 3rd World pimping by large American corporations. Yet, you are made to believe, with all your self-centered and elf-concerned 'God-Blessed' American heart that this is what's right now. Because you're suffering, others should further suffer to afford the security and sanctity of your precious little holiday consumer approach to 'showing' people around you that you care. Good night and fuck off America!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cinematic Enemies

So, last night I, unfortunately, wasted two hours of my life on Michael Mann's so-called biopic of John Dillinger and his famous run of bank robberies in the 1930's. What's most disconcerting is that the film has two of the better actors of this generation in Depp and Bale and this movie still stinks like a roadside rest stop toilet. It's emotionally void, not just flat, but void and I couldn't give less of a shit about the characters, despite one of them being the real-life charismatic diamond Dillinger. Dillinger may have been a secret double agent of the Knights Templar or an alien and none of this fascinating 'other' side of him was even winked at. Let's just say that Depp is about as interesting as Dillinger as Stephen Dorff is as Homer Van Meter. That's saying something. And Bale could barely hold onto that whack ass Southern accent any better than a slimy catfish.
It's a good thing I also watched Robin Williams in World's Greatest Dad. Not since World According to Garp has Williams perfected the art of sympathetic asshole and sycophant so well. Kudos to Bobcat Goldthwait for writing and directing such a richly funny and dark tale.