31st March 2023
Seminal UK experimental composer Richard Skelton returns to Phantom Limb for new album selenodesy, interweaving his newfound love of electronics and synthesis with mastery of gritty organic texture.
Skelton’s music has always been rooted in landscape, in the loam and grit of the earth: from his 2009 Pennine Moors-inspired modern classic Landings to his more recent Moraine Sequence of geological excavations, his work has been bound inexorably with the stark and untended wilderness of northern landscapes. With this new album, however, Skelton shifts his gaze skyward — in part the result of a move in 2017 to the countryside near the Kielder Observatory, and to a so-called ‘dark sky’ region of the UK. In this remote landscape, light pollution is minimal, allowing the austere majesty of the night sky to be seen with greater clarity.
The resulting album, selenodesy, reveals a new, reverberant spaciousness to Skelton’s use of electronics. It marries the twin worlds of his previous Phantom Limb release - 2020’s These Charms May Be Sung Over A Wound, and its abandoned-factory threnody - with the landscape-revering arcana of his earlier work, which saw him bury instruments in the soil to return months later to recover and record with them, newly imbued with the land they occupied. selenodesy was prefigured by a period of insomnia and the relief found in stargazing, during which Skelton tried to transcribe his hypnagogic visions: “much of this music came to me in the early hours, in that nowhere state between dreaming and waking. I’d look out the window and the night sky would be swirling with stars. Mars or Venus would be hovering in the corner of the room. I’d lie there and watch the Aurora Borealis dance across the ceiling.”