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

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