Crow Autumn is the latest album by English composer Richard Skelton, who releases haunting and evocative music under a variety of guises through his own much-acclaimed Sustain-Release Private Press. From Clouwbeck to Heidika, Carousell to Riftmusic, his recordings brim with intensity and stark beauty, redolent of the landscapes that inspire them.
Recording here as A Broken Consort – his most prolific and successful pseudonym – Skelton expertly builds on the achievements of last year’s Box Of Birch, creating a dense-yet-delicate weave of textures from a broad palette of acoustic instruments, including guitar, mandolin, piano, violin and accordion. The result is a stunning sequence of swells and eddies, culminating in the orchestral intensity of ‘The River’, with its torrent of interleaved violin melodies and seething undertow.
With Crow Autumn, Skelton has created a work of enduring beauty that should firmly establish him as one of England’s most uniquely talented contemporary artists, capable of rendering with a fine brush the visceral majesty of the natural landscape.
Followers of Skelton’s Sustain-Release catalogue will notice that limited CD-R editions called Crow Autumn and Crow Autumn Part Two have already been released in 2007 and 2009, respectively, but this new Tompkins Square volume finds the composer reworking the material. For example, the first Crow Autumn consisted of a single twenty-minute track, but here the piece is split into a shorter sequence of tracks (‘Day Reveals’, ‘A Mercy Kill’ and ‘Like Rain’) before Crow Autumn Part Two reappears in its entirety, suffixed by new piece, ‘Leaves’.
In compositional terms you might think of Skelton in the same way as you would Wiliam Basinski, for example: here’s an artist who has spent their career honing their own specific oeuvre using a very personal set of techniques. If you’ve been keeping up with his recent run of releases you won’t necessarily find a radical change of course for Crow Autumn, but you will be in for a glorious forty-five minutes of passionately performed, wonderfully organic string music that sounds utterly unlike anyone else.
To enjoy this album to its full potential, lock yourself away in a room and plug in with a pair of headphones.
Links: Sustain release