Boomkat Product Review:
Constructed entirely from a dusty six-second fragment of Baroque recorder music, Richard Skelton's first new work as ‘The Inward Circles’ in 6 years is a stunning evocation of environmental collapse, replacing his usual array of bowed strings in favour of windswept electronic flourishes that come highly recommended if yr into Basinski, Mats Erlandsson and - uncannily - the beatless sections of Autechre’s ‘Amber’.
While Skelton's previous work as The Inward Circles chipped away at his signature bowed cello and viola, 'Before We Lie Down in Darknesse' is an act of auditory excavation. While wandering the Scottish borders, Skelton found an abandoned record of early-modern recorder music that set his brain into overdrive. The rescue of a lost cultural artefact made him consider his own musical processes, and how his find might relate to a world on the brink of environmental breakdown. So, taking a sample of a sustained recorder note from the record's runout groove, he set about turning it into an epic, 11-track suite of caliginous but eerily hopeful ambience.
Skelton has always made connections between his art and the landscape that surrounds it, and here he makes that relationship vivid using a different palette of sounds. Using his recovered source material as a starting point, he unfurls huge, sweeping electronic sections that mimic the environment collapsing around us, with each track melting into the next; allowing the album to play as an interconnected whole.
In places as cinematic as Vangelis' timeless 'Blade Runner' ('The State of the Soul Upon Disunion'), the album most strikingly reminds us of the violet-hued topographies of Autechre’s ‘Silverside’, perhaps most evident on the magnificent ‘Ghosts Were but Images and Shadows of the Soul’.’ ‘To Return Not Unto Ashes but Unto Dust Again' is heartbreaking but almost euphoric, and on 'In the Oblivion of Names' he evokes Steve Roach's most hypnotic early gear. Skelton closes with 'To End Their Dayes in Fire', reaching a level of tweaked electro-orchestral bliss that's mesmerising and deeply affecting.
A bit of departure for Skelton, embracing more synthesis and electronic shadowplay, and we’re very much here for it.