Grief, hallucinations and exhumed violins: the astonishing music of Richard Skelton

Apr 11, 2023
Dimitris Passas

NOTE: This article is a republication- Source: The Guardian ((by Hugh Morris).

He’s self-released more than 60 searing albums – some with only a single copy – made with instruments including his late wife’s jewellery. On a drive through northern moorlands, he explains his singular sonic world

‘It’s not a landscape that’s there for people to go and look at,” says Richard Skelton. The countryside around the Anglo-Scottish border doesn’t share its secrets willingly, but a few hours spent in the passenger seat of Skelton’s MG hatchback reveals some of its strange charms. Wide, arrow-straight roads are a mesmerising constant that switches one’s focus to the granular details – the textures of the road surface, the ditches flanking each side, and the occasional cartoonish tree. The effect is hypnotic. “It’s kind of maze-like, and you don’t know where you are half of the time,” Skelton says. “I feel like I could drive around here for decades and not really get the measure of it.”

Skelton is one of the UK’s most prolific and consistently impressive experimental musicians, the creator of slow-moving yet unexpectedly gruelling drone-based music, and his work often communes with landscapes like these. He’s seen plenty of them at the mercy of the rural renting market. The Lancashire-born musician and his wife, the poet and publisher Autumn Richardson, have lived in Cumbria, Fife, Ireland, and now Liddesdale, just over the border into Scotland. After six years there, they’re preparing for another move, but not before Skelton ends this chapter with Selenodesy, a drone album of yearning swells and searing intensity, motivated in part by the region’s dark skies.

Skelton, 49, has been a prodigious creator of experimental music since 2005, self-releasing more than 60 albums, although that’s far from his only creative output. Skelton and Richardson founded Corbel Stone Press, a small independent publisher, publishing the literary journal Reliquiae from 2013 to 2022, and Skelton has written poetry and prose himself, including nature writing. “I feel like there’s kind of an institutional mistrust of people who do more than one thing,” he says when we stop for coffee in a busy tearoom. He’s also just written the brooding score for Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, the new production by esteemed theatre company Complicité. What drives him? “I characterise it, at least in myself, as a kind of compulsion,” he says. “I see it as a kind of psychosis, and I don’t think that it’s a healthy thing.”

To read the full article click here

Join the Discussion