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Richard Skelton: Landings (Type)

This one nearly passed me buy, one of a big stack of albums I picked up very early in the year. I was reminded that despite its 2009 date on the sleeve, this only was really accessible to listeners in January, and so I circled back to listen again as I consider contenders for best of this year (as shallow a reason as any to dedicate listening time, but whatever works). The arrangements of Landings are like the serene, desaturated forest on the cover — forming a pattern and suggesting tranquility, but there is a shiver of tension that courses throughout that betrays that peace. Several of the tracks focus on layered, cyclical string arrangements, all see-sawing and tremolo. At other times, such as later track “Pariah,” the playing is limited to sparse guitar and reverb, exploring the plucked timbre of the instrument against the broad, open space. One thing worth noting is that even when the strings are layered and form vague tapestries of sound, the tone is still stark. There’s something quite intimate about this music, especially on tracks like “Of The Last Generation,” a striking beauty of a motif that repeats as it burrows further down. Other tracks such as “Undertow” and “Voice of the Book” writhe and slither into one another, sounding very much like parts of a whole rather than distinct ideas. The LP comes with an extended piece on CD called “Riftmusic No. 1,” twenty minutes of spiraling textures — bright guitar patterns and shimmering tremolo strings. As a combo it works well, but the album is definitely the main attraction here. Really handsome work, perfect for short, overcast days…

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