A Broken Consort: Landscapes As Music

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A Broken Consort.

On "Mountains Ash," the whistling echoes of traditional English folk music are stretched out of layered violins and sparse piano. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Thursday's Pick

  • Song: "Mountains Ash"
  • Artist: A Broken Consort
  • CD: Crow Autumn
  • Genre: Folk/Ambient

It must be an incredible treat to see landscapes as music. Under the moniker A Broken Consort and his own name, Richard Skelton sketches ambient abstract portraits of the British countryside. Like the minimalists before him, who often belie their genre name, Skelton crafts sonically diverse compositions — in a flutter of drones, they move like volcanic ash in cinematic slow motion. Given recent volcanic events, perhaps news networks can find respite in A Broken Consort's meditations on nature.

Truth be told, the difference between A Broken Consort and Skelton's solo projects can be difficult to distinguish. The string-laden, folkloric compositions heard on both last year's excellent Landings and now on Crow Autumn are deceptively song-like fragments tangled in a thicket of sound. Whatever the difference, it's always an intensely intimate, drawn-in experience. In "Mountains Ash," the whistling echoes of traditional English folk music are stretched out using layered violins and sparse piano, while the somber melody circles around the 12-minute piece, seemingly in search of its mate. This is Skelton's mastery at work: unresolved tension. It's aching and restless, yet "Mountains Ash" is delivered with gnarled beauty.

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