For the last 16 years Richard Skelton has created dense, mysterious music informed by the physical world that surrounds him. Subjects such as landscape, geography, geology and cartography regularly appear in discussions on his music, and his latest album These Charms May Be Sung Over A Wound proves that he is still able to derive inspiration from ruggedly earthy concerns.
His earlier work reflected these subjects via drawn-out, string-based instrumentation that crossed the fields of both dark ambient and post-classical music. These Charms sees Skelton move away from this palette of acoustic sounds, instead using entirely electronic means to construct the album, but many of the hallmarks of his textural sound are still present.
The land in question here is that of the Scottish borders, where Skelton was based during its creation, and a suitable longform openness and expansiveness runs right through the record. Opening moments like The Viscid Substance and For Either Deadened Or Undeadened take us on a slow, considered immersion that recalls the likes of William Basinski while perhaps adding a fraction more detailing. Skelton’s application of concepts like degradation and decay in his music certainly shares common ground with Basinski’s pioneering Disintegration Loops series.
The most noticeable change comes on For The Application Of Fire which has an exacting, almost dystopian feel comparable in places to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It signals a shift to a darker direction, something explored further in the ominous pulsing of For An Inward Wound. Listen deep enough and you can just about make out the sound of flowing underground rivers. For A Swarthened Body has the creeping, electronic dread of Murcof and Against Bite And Rend Of Snake lays down more in the way of static-infused tension. A half-melody slowly seems to form and navigate its way, Tim Hecker style, through the dense sonic weather.
The album reaches something of a climax with On Each Of The Six Fives Of The Moon, which features thick, metallic tones encircling over bleak and unforgiving terrain. Its Deathprod-like heaviness is sustaining and compelling in equal measure and, like much of the album, there’s little option but to submit to its force and embrace the imposing mass face-on.