A Broken Consort is the project of
British multi-instrumentalist Richard Skelton.
ABC debuted with two collections
of solo instrumental jams for stringed instruments,
The Shape Leaves (Sustain-Release, 2006) and
Box of Birch (2007).
Its typical piece is a chaotic lattice of drones, dissonances and melodic
Sometimes the method yields vivid, pointillistic, layered frescoes
(A Momentary Sun);
sometimes it evokes a fragile neurotic inquietude that is
almost the opposite of Zen meditation and the opposite of psychedelic trance
(And All Their Silver & Gold);
sometimes the convoluted proceesings seem to evoke agonies or birthpangs
(In The Hanged Air);
and often it sounds like a deconstructed version of
or the Third Ear Band without percussion.
The thick aural doodling sounds menacing in The Longing Day, especially
when (at the beginning) is mixed with industrial clangor and when (in the end)
is mixed with woodwinds.
The 15-minute Untitled is the musical equivalent of
a slow-motion documentary of blooming flowers.
Box of Birch (2007) contains only four pieces.
The ten-minute A Sundering Path exhibits a melodic folkish languor that
was missing from the previous album, and is drenched in showers of
metallic percussion, and towards the end the violin takes over in a commanding
manner that is reminiscent of chamber music.
The nine-minute Weight Of Days is even more openly mournful, thanks to
louder and thicker drones.
The eleven-minute Something Fell explores a harsher kind of counterpoint,
with piano notes intersecting undulating drones and stammering strings; with
a middle section dominated by strident fractured tones.
The seven-minute The Elder Lie is the densest concentration of sounds,
organized in a sort of cyclical manner, thus
achieving an almost mystical effect that is reminiscent of Pachelbel's canon.
Crow Autumn (2007) contains
the 20-minute A Mercy Kill.
Crow Autumn 2 (2009) contains two more suites,
Mountains Ash and
The River, but this time the results were a bit too facile.
Skelton was also active as Carousell, that released the album Black Swallow & Other Songs (2009), a collection of love songs to his dead wife,
that released the mini-album A Moraine (2007) and the album
that released the mini-album Riftmusic No 1, a sublime trance of tinkling guitar-like tones and bells.
The multi-instrumental soundscapes of
Marking Time (2008) were finally released under his own name,
It is a tense and austere work, deeply psychological and almost tortured.
The agonizing fluctuations and limping repetitions of
Shore displayed his art at its impressionistic zenith.
The oneiric turbulence Fold is the soundtrack for a scene in a Japanese
The collision of Eastern spirituality and post-industrial neurosis also
fuels Heys for dissonant effects, distorted drone and discreet piano.
The slowly breathing strings of Brook, that exude a cosmic calm,
are paced by glacial intermittent staccato piano notes.
Skelton's Landings (Sustain-Release, 2009) is a more convulsed
affair compared with the previous album's suspended coherence, but the
underlying theme remains the contrast between a transcendental (and immanent)
dimension and a psychological (and contingent) dimension.
The rumbles and screeches of The Shape Leaves project a quality akin to
howling at the full moon from an abandoned factory.
Noon Hill Wood stages a tormented a stringed instrument's monologue
against another stringed instrument's prayer-like laments.
The harsh dissonance of Undertow and the gritty foggy density of
Remaindered are no less jarring.
This time around many pieces seem to indulge more in repetition.
When the ghostly atmosphere of Voice Of The Book soars in a cacophonous apotheosis, it comes as a relief: something actually happens.
In the case of pieces like River Song, that modulates a hymn out of
wavering drones, the attraction is the timbre itself.
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