Boomkat Product Review:
Having recorded a significant body of work under various guises including A Broken Consort and Clouwbeck, Richard Skelton returns with a brand new and long anticipated album under his own name. Following on from 'Marking Time' (originally released via Preservation in 2008 only to be reissued on limited vinyl by Type over the summer), 'Landings' is an album steeped in the wild rural landscape of Skelton's surroundings. Over the span of just a few releases he's managed to establish a language all his own, standing apart from the dominant currents within the neo-classical, ambient and post-rock genres and becoming known for a bowed-string variant of modern classical music of his own making. From the first jagged strokes of 'Noon Hill Wood' you're instantly aware that you could only be listening to a Richard Skelton record - the hugely expressive, deeply mournful string arrangements writhe and overlap, squealing with harmonic overtones as if the strings were being sawn into. After only a few early playthroughs, Landings feels like a more ambitious and substantial package than previous Skelton outings thanks to an expanded instrumental palette and a duration that permits the exploration of a more complete and varied narrative. 'Scar Tissue', for instance, features tumbling minor-key guitar fragments, creaking along in some unspecified woodland exterior - you can often hear site-specific soundscapes of the natural world captured in the background during these recordings, and in truth the music is as much about these unusual, deeply atmospheric recording locations Skelton chooses as it is the instrumentation itself. On 'Green Withins Brook' you can hear gentle waves of concertina droning melodiously over the babble of a stream, while 'Voice Of The Book' is leant a reflective ambience by the dimensions of the ruined, ancient farmhouse in which it was recorded. Additionally, this odd and characterful locale is coloured by incidental knocking sounds that seem to emanate from the corners of the mix. Even during the less obviously in-situ productions there's an almost spooky presence hanging in the air between notes. 'Of The Last Generation' and 'Threads Across The River' are imbued with some kind of intense and palpable aura - if not an outright sense of place. Throughout Skelton's catalogue you'll hear pieces masked in naturalistic reverb, as if he's trying to distance his music from the listener - blurring the edges with a soft-focus mist, and that effect is put to especially good use during the closing moments of Landings: the detached and austere guitar of 'Remaindered' is like the ghost of a Nick Drake song while 'The Shape Leaves' serves as hauntingly aloof exit music. Perhaps even more so than on prior works, here Richard Skelton proves himself to be more than just a modern-classical outsider and consolidates his status as an auteur with a singular vision; Landing feels like the album he's been building up to for some time now. Amazing music.