Crow Autumn

A Broken Consort

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Crow Autumn Review

by Thom Jurek

Composer Richard Skelton is A Broken Consort. Crow Autumn is the second A Broken Consort offering on Tompkins Square (the first was the strikingly beautiful sound study Box of Birch, issued in 2009); in essence, this is a new version of Crow Autumn. Skelton originally released it in two parts on his own Sustain-Release imprint in 2007 and 2009 on limited-edition CD-Rs. This new one is a considerably reworked pairing of the two pieces. The first half was a much longer work; it is now about half its original length and contains three different sequences -- “Day Reveals,” ”A Mercy Kill,” and ”Like Rain.” The latter half is contained here in its three-sequence entirety -- “Mountains Ash,” “The River,” and “Beneath” -- with a five-minute coda entitled “Leaves” added. The music is a continual evolution of delicately overdubbed, repetitive bowed strings of different timbres and tonalities, with ghostly piano added in places. They are set free inside a very open but controlled space, so that they sound as if they are floating over a large terrain, playing from the air. Field recordings and other organic minutia are carefully added to the mix to create a constantly breathing poetic series of controlled dynamics that occasionally increase in intensity, though not in any pulsing manner. Rhythm is based in spatial considerations, not beat. The shimmering strings offer notions of both heat and a kind of isolated iciness that evokes feelings of a desolate landscape after a cold rain in November, or the emptiness of the land that lies quiet after the first snow of the season, as wind and atmosphere create their own soundtrack. Crow Autumn gets inside the listener and opens her or him and demands attention, albeit subtly; as this suite plays, it cannot be ignored. Its seduction is in its persistent, seemingly unfinished ever-evolving revelation of beauty as a mercurial, indefinable, natural process, based in sound, fleeting images, textures, and colors.

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