for an Unsanctioned Exhumation
August 1st 1984
Belated Movements for an Unsanctioned Exhumation August 1st 1984 reeks of an ancient atmosphere, of crumbling stone and creatures long thought extinct. It is the recent exhumation of a distinct sound that can only be thought of as rural England. The rosy, unrivaled countryside spreads itself out over a green (and not always pleasant) land, judging from the 16th and 17th century witch trials and, of course, the English Civil War. Those are just a couple of the rougher pebbles that are buried beneath the pristine beauty of the rolling hills. Her thorny, age-old history lingers to this day. Take, for instance, the unashamedly cruel, elitist ‘sport’ of fox hunting, or the murderous, barbaric tradition of the Grand National, where horses continue to die year after year. The music has had its time to slowly rot and decay, but now, centuries later, it’s about to be discovered. It slowly, with sharp claws, drags the listener, the discoverer, down and into the black earth. Under the main drone, thick pools of congealed mud squelch out tough, laborious rhythms. The tonally rich soil creeps up on the sparse, quiet instrumentation, covering the music in a heavy pile of crumbling dirt; a cello hovers, seemingly incapable of movement, and a light, electronic drone sits beside. ‘Petition for Reinterment’ is hardly there at all.
Richard Skelton’s new album under The Inward Circles refers to ‘Lindow Man’, one of the bog bodies found in Northern Europe in the twentieth century. But it also calls to the English countryside, and the way that the ancient trees and the withered branches drink in and store up the very atmosphere of the ages. Perhaps England is haunted by its own rich past. Stories have been passed down of wolves and other creatures that once called the land their home. Around fifteen years ago, the ‘Beast of Bodmin’ caused quite a stir. Described as a ‘phantom wild cat’, it left its mark as it prowled through the Cornish countryside, as well as a few notable and national newspapers. The unknown creature stalked and supposedly terrified residents for over thirty years. Richard Skelton’s music has its own little mystery, too; it drips from the very oaks. It’s nestled away in a leafy corner, left for someone, somewhere, to one day find. The bog bodies are contorted mummies whose very skeletons have crumbled away. The bone has become dust. Similarly, the music’s thin quality is a sign of weakness and earthy mortality.
The dynamics slowly rise, imitating a prolonged period of violence. Perhaps it was a key battle, the countryside itself shrouded in the early morning fog, centuries ago. Quieter than the previous piece, ‘Canis, Lynx, Ursus: Awake, Arise, Reclaim’ sits in the still shadow of a soft piano, gathering strength after so many years away from the action. It tries to stand up on legs that aren’t used to it anymore. As the legs buckle, it disintegrates in a dry cloud of brittle bone. The wolf, lynx and bear, now lost forever, used to roam their English habitat, but now only their dry bones remain. They stay firmly lodged in the dirt and the soil. Lindow Man, on the other hand, does not.