The collectors who have been following Richard Skelton’s activity since the outset are probably still treasuring his magnificently manufactured limited editions from that era. Musical fragments replete with the lingering consequences of a personal sorrow, adorned with fragile leaves, delicate dried flowers and other assorted organic materials. The combination of droning strings – often tuned according to peculiar intervals or altogether slacked – and committed care for the addressee put in those artworks have been placing Skelton’s output in a class of its own throughout the years.
The essence – of both man and instrumentalist – has not changed with the advent of more “modern” means of releasing music. Border Ballads – made of twelve tracks shorter than usual, but equally poignant – was reportedly influenced by Skelton’s two-year experience in areas between North England and Scotland, with particular regard to the local fluvial characteristics and overall morphology. Whatever the source of inspiration, every snippet keeps reflecting the composer’s proclivity to offer sequences of affecting suggestions via minimal sonic movement.
Which is to say, melodies of one or two notes ebbing and flowing across the self-generated harmonic landscape, typically sustained by a bowed vastness whose resonance remains a thing of beauty. Pellucid piano chords delineating an unhurried pace, evocative of a walk along the sea shore in a windy day. On occasion, the “ballads” are comparable to sketches of songs destined to soundtrack a productive solitude. Some of them – “Roan”, for example – vaguely recall Tim Story’s finest hours (Wheat And Rust, anyone? That’s a milestone of inner quietness). However, Skelton’s acoustic nature is unique, and will always be. Built on early sufferance, transitioning to maturity through fundamental changes, now arrived at the stage of fullest strength.