Richard Skelton’s latest album is a forty-minute evocation of the growth, peak and accelerated thawing of the British and Irish glacial landscapes, presented as a series of eight movements of slow, developing tones that ebb away into quiet murmurs; basically, it’s like Morton Feldman, on ice.
The effect is powerfully disconcerting when heard in the context of climate change and the insistent messages of politician, scientists, protesters about the urgency of the corrective action that might be required to arrest the impact.
Across these movements there is a sense of stillness and calm, but also a slightly dizzying sensation. The precise instrumentation is not disclosed, and one never knows the origins of these long, eddying indeterminate tones and warped, muffled drones; at times it sounds like industrial, metallic noise, while at others we hear what could be an especially mournful, poignant cello, only presented like a vague outline of something that once was, but which can never be again. Sounds drift in and out, like gusts of wind across the arctic tundra, only presented as fleetingly melancholic, and edged with a frosty tension. There is a feeling of isolation, a panic-inducing out-of-placeness, that sensation being all the more remarkable given the levels of nothingness one experiences here.
Your response to music is often entirely situational. For me, I chose to listen to this during the clamour and franticity of a walk three and a half blocks from a hotel in New York to a downtown E train during the rush hour. Something about the slow, ominous passage of the music chimed menacingly with the post-work streetscene of manic Manhattan, a world removed from the subject matter of Skelton’s remarkable work, yet somehow entirely in tune with it.
LASTGLACIALMAXIMUM by Richard Skelton is released February 2 2020 by Corbel Stone Press
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