I was recently asked to make a mix for CLOT Magazine. The result is an hour of music loosely constructed around absences, vacancies, and dereliction. The above image is of a deserted church located deep in the north Cumbrian interior, now falling into disrepair. I pass by the building on a regular basis, as I traverse the labyrinthine back roads between Scotland and England. Fittingly, therefore, all the music in this mix is sourced from vinyl — the sound of cracks and pops attesting to a kind of degraded materiality.
Perhaps predictably, the first recording that came to mind was Nico’s ‘No One Is There’ — a favourite song with a haunting melody, and my selection moved out from there, looking for records that had similar resonances, regardless of their provenance or genre. I was therefore interested to discover overlaps between the Baroque inflections of Boismortier’s ‘Concerto for 5 Tenor Recorders’ and the synthetic swells of Vainqueur’s ‘Elevation’, or the howling sonorities of Gareth Davis’ clarinet and Jandek’s cracked harmonica.
The whole mix is held together by the rich field recordings of Joshua Bonnetta’s ‘What Lies in It’, a document of a Californian ghost resort, Salton Sea. In turn, various segues are made with Alan Lomax’s recordings of human voices, many of which crackle and blur with their own disintegrating physicality. These are various documents of (primarily North American) languages and dialects: Blood (00:50), Stoney (07:50), Beaver (17:48), English (25:45 & 36:00), Achumawi (48:45) and Nenet (54:05). Given this proliferation of languages, in the end Nico herself has gone — vanishing through the cracks in her own song to leave only its refrain, looping eternally.
Till Fabrics is the first in a new series, Moraine Sequence, an ongoing series of recordings influenced by research into glacigenic landforms. MS01 features two longform works, ‘Till Fabrics (+)’ and ‘Till Fabrics (-)’, both of which essay a kind of auditory deconstruction of morainic landscapes. Here can be heard the effects of attrition and ice weathering over millennia, as evidenced in low-end synth debris suspended in a shimmering matrix of violin and cello regolith.
Originally released as a white cassette with on-body printing in a white card enclosure, accompanied by a download card featuring unique verso artwork. The recordings are now available in digital format.
QUOIN 4 (2018)
Richard Skelton Front Variations
Worldwide coordination of glacier monitoring began in 1894 with the creation of the Commission Internationale des Glaciers (CIG), now the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS), but the monitoring of individual glaciers, such as Leirufjarðarjökull in Iceland, began as early as 1840. The long-term aim of such endeavours was to gain insight into the processes of climate change.
Quoin 4 presents a combination of data sourced from the WGMS along with aerial photographs from the US Naval Oceanographic Office to highlight ice-sheet recession over the past 100 years and more. ‘Front variation’ refers to the recorded difference in position of a glacier’s front edge – a positive figure indicates glacier advance, whereas a negative figure indicates glacier retreat.
The music that accompanies this volume of Quoin was composed using only sine waves – the purest and simplest periodic oscillations or tones. These tones were then subjected to increasing amounts of feedback in order to simulate the so-called ice-albedo feedback mechanism. This is the process whereby the action of melting glaciers reduces the global surface area of ice, thereby reducing the amount of solar radiation that glaciers reflect, which in turn increases global temperatures and causes further glacial melting. Ring modulation and distortion were also used to further deteriorate the sound signal.
Quoin is the exclusive publication for friends and patrons of Corbel Stone Press. To find out more, visit:
Still Glides the Stream (2014).
Erasures, loss and lacunae in Wordsworth’s Duddon Sonnets.
More info here.
A personal archaeology. Images rescued from a dying hard-drive, c. 2007-8.
‘I am north of where I was. Go north. That was
the imperative. Always north. Although the why
of it is no longer clear.’
A wounded man in a fugue state hides out in a deserted north-country shieling, convinced that he is pursued. Over the days and weeks that follow, as no one comes to claim him, his mind turns from his pursuers to the hills themselves, and their other-than-human inhabitants. Gradually he is caught up in a drama that can have only one conclusion.
‘As if Samuel Beckett had written The Goshawk’
Central to the book is a map of northern England which has a real-life existence, and can be examined in detail via the National Library of Scotland.
Originally produced in a highly limited hardcover edition by Corbel Stone Press, The Look Away is now available in paperback from via the new imprint, Xylem Books. Copies are available from Corbel Stone Press, or through bookstores.
‘The Look Away is a bold, poetic meditation on the power of nature to forget, to erase the past, and to renew, even if that renewal is unforgiving and indiscriminate. I have rarely read anything so emotionally compelling in so unusual a form.’ (Brian Lavelle)
Richard has provided the soundtrack to an exhibition by photographer Joseph Wright at the Grizedale Centre, Cumbria:
Cubby’s Tarn Exhibition
Grizedale Forest Centre
Nr. Hawkshead, Cumbria
18th October – 31st December 2017