All of Skelton’s work to date has been an explicit response to the death of his wife in 2004. His body of work is a memorial to her passing and an act of remembrance. Landings is a direct and naked response to this event.
The timeless and organic feel are a direct consequence of Skelton’s recording techniques. The bulk of the material included being improvised live over a period of four years in various remote locations throughout Northern England: on hillsides, along streams and rivers, and in deep forests. Moors are a favourite haunt. Skelton’s method in exploring his experiences of landscape is to become a conduit both for his own responses, and in the more complicated space of interaction between place and self. In his relationship to the West Pennines he forges a collusion that allows him to explore the inner landscape of his own grief. It is a Romantic document, a record of an intimate relationship with place and a minutely observed mapping of the locale – not out of place alongside Richard Long, Turner [see cover], Coleridge and resonating with Wordworth’s “still, sad music of humanity”.
Initially, Skelton made field recordings of the ambient sounds – the whine of wind through a ruined farm, rook call and such – and then augmented these with his own instrumentation. This gave way to him making recordings in situ; he uses the moors as an open-air studio, on occasion leaving a dicatophone in the trees, returning the recordings to their original source – what he calls ‘returning the music back to its birthing chambers’. Over time he realised his methods were obstructive, as the methodology was somehow mediating his proper experience of the landscape. Instead, Skelton trusted to his imaginative recall, and used elements of the landscape to aid this collusion at one remove: a bone plectrum, the scrape of tree litter on metal strings.
Landings is built around achingly beautiful and impossibly sad beds of strings. The magic lies in the detail, such as the shuddering bow-work and the crackle, creaks, scrapes, harmonics, echoes, moans, chirping, and all sorts of other evocative elements tangential to the central themes. It is extraordinary.
Oddi wrth y brawd