A year and a half after the delicate and intimate “Border Ballads”, Richard Skelton returns with a new record. He returns so to speak, because the English artist, as usual, has never left… In fact, his path does not follow the classic recording routine of cadenced releases, but must be considered as a continuum in which the author’s artistic expression is constantly declined through different forms and modes: there are publishings that come out regularly and exclusively in digital format on Bandcamp for the subscribers of Aeolian Editions, the works on commission or related to sensitive issues such as global warming, compositions linked to multimedia works and performances and works in the literary field, published by his own label Corbelstone Press. This artistic vivacity should not be confused with a productive bulimia, but should be framed in a profound identification between life and art. From this point of view, Skelton’s entire musical (and non musical) work (together with his wife Autumn Richardson’s literary work) draws a path that, although not without twists and turns, appears completely “natural” (a term not chosen at random).

The new record “These charms may be sung over a wound” represents the first release (after a long chase) for the label Phantom Limb, but above all it is one of those curves we were talking about before because, to use the effective definition in the press kit, ” Skelton has abandoned acoustic instrumentation altogether to map out a new territory of buzzing sine tones and square waves, immersed in shimmering clouds of distortion and suspended over landscapes of thrumming bass.”.
This is no small change because Skelton’s sound signature is mainly linked to his ability to translate and interpret the vision of ambient music through the lens of the acoustic dimension. If the factors vary, however, the field of research does not change because the English composer’s interest in the relationship between man and nature and, in particular, in the archaic dimension, remains unchanged. Title and songs derive in fact from “leechdoms”, a term that in ancient times indicated medicinal remedies that often required the recitation of charms to increase their effectiveness; we do not know if the choice of this thread has to do with the situation linked to the pandemic and the hope for the healing of a climatically and clinically ill world, but it certainly gives a sort of singular topicality to the album.
In addition to the turn towards electronics, the album presents another substantial novelty, the use of percussion: it is certainly not a conversion to the dance floor, but it is clear that the presence of rhythmic percussive pulsations gives an unusual aspect to the work.

The short “Viscid Substance” illustrates the first encounter with the new electronic component, but it does not seem to introduce radical changes: the stratification of acoustic drones and squeaky strings is replaced by an undulating electronic carpet on which luminous and distant melodic waves rest; the serene and contemplative atmosphere of the piece is however deceptive because from that moment on the sensations change.
Already in “Against All Tenderness Of The Eyes” the atmosphere becomes gloomy and the song is cadenced by cavernous keyboard chords and a slow, repeated beat. The ritual dimension of “leechdoms” is rendered by a percussive beat wrapped in an electronic, mysterious and hieratic atmosphere, emphasized by the slow growth of intensity that emulates the hypnotic rapture.  
The next track “For Either deadened and undeadened” introduces another fundamental sound element for the record, namely noise: the track is slowly covered by a blanket of ecstatic distortions that recall post-rock and shoegaze ascendants in a process not unlike that of an artist like Tim Hecker.

To complete the picture comes “For The Application of Fire”, the real culmination of the album: in fact, in it we find all the elements listed so far, however, declined in an even more leaden atmosphere and characterized by industrial sounds. The low (and almost suffocating in its ineluctable crescendo) trend transports the listener into atmospheres definitely new for Skelton’s music. The result is that the original ritual dimension, the archaic one of medicine spells, is transfigured in a surprising way in a modernity rendered through martial sounds similar to certain industrial music.


This shows, if there was still a need for it, that Skelton is not a conservative or an extremist who completely rejects modernity, but simply a scholar of nature (human and as a whole) who investigates and returns through music and the most suitable means of expression. 
After the central part the record then seems to come out of the darkness towards the light, perhaps to emulate the healing process after the manifestation. The final pieces in fact show a more ecstatic and ethereal dimension with the beats becoming more and more imperceptible.

To close and underline once again how Skelton is not a mono dimensional author, we invite those interested to listen to “Song To Vega” as well. The track published only in digital format on Bandcamp, which shows the English artist always in the field of electronic instrumentation but with much more sunny atmospheres and results, showing how at the basis of each project, beyond the chosen expressive medium, what matters are the artist’s vision and talent.

By Mason