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Music Review: A Broken Consort – Crow Autumn

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I have just taken an emotional walk through the latest creation from British musician Richard Skelton. His album Crow Autumn has been released under his A Broken Consort title which is, in fact, just one of the guises by which he is known. He has also released recordings as Carousell, Harlassen, Heidika, Riftmusic and Clouwbeck.

His story is an inspirational one. In 2005 he created the Sustain-Release label as a commemorative tribute to his late wife Louise. Through this he publishes his deeply textured instrumental compositions alongside Louise’s artwork. The combination is a compellingly attractive piece of art in both the audio and visual sense.

His music is best described on his website as comprising of “densely layered acoustic guitar, bowed strings, piano, mandolin, and accordion, often laced with shimmering percussion.” One thing is for certain, play this through headphones and the outside world becomes a strangely distant place.

Through the label Richard produces lovingly crafted limited editions of his and Louise’s work. He also makes beautiful and unique boxed editions which he describes as, “containing caches of natural ephemera, oblique lists of dates and places, articles of provenance, observations and poem fragments. In many cases, these found objects have been used in the music-making process itself, and provide a substantive link between the music and the landscape which inspired it.”

He goes on to say that a typical box may contain seeds, fallen leaves, pieces of bark, twigs, small stones, feathers, glass, miniature phials of soil, and even bone fragments. These lovingly assembled sets combine music and art, and the vivid contrasts of the pain and joy held within memories.

His previous works include A Moraine, Black Swallow And Other Songs, Landings (which was also the title of a limited edition book released in 2009), A Dead Bridges Into Dust (as Carousell), Wolfrahm (as Clouwbeck), and The Shapes Leaves, Box Of Birch, and the two part Crow Autumn (as A Broken Consort).

 He has also released several works under his own name, perhaps most notably Marking Time a meditation piece on “loss and the passage of time.”

Crow Autumn has now been released on the Tompkins Square label and is available from February 9th, 2010 as a limited edition vinyl LP or on CD, in an attractive card cover. It is also available digitally but I believe that there is something within the actual 'feel' of the album that is very much part of its attraction.

This inspirational work is created through an imaginative palette of instruments ranging from the simple acoustic, and the recurring bowed strings, through to the majesty of fully developed multi layered sequences. It can be sparse, sometimes bleak, even cloyingly sad, and yet can also be highly charged, vibrant, and alive.

The beauty of nature is ever present. It is as though you are walking through a dense forest, with those same leaves, seeds, and the pieces of bark beneath your feet. As you walk there are the familiar signs of decay amid life affirming evidence of new creation.

As you chance upon clearings, shafts of light penetrate the dense canopy to reveal something altogether uplifting. It is despair, loss, and grief, permeated by hope, and regeneration.

Whilst exploring much of life’s beauty, his music tangibly echoes the pain of such a loss. There are moments of sublime delicacy, set within a dense underlying sadness, that is interspersed with a near spiritual resonance.

This particular set comes with a 12 page booklet of artwork from Richard himself that is dedicated to his wife Louise. More details can be found on his website.

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