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Richard Skelton
selenodesy Vanessa Ague , April 3rd, 2023 08:05

Richard Skelton turns his gaze skyward on an album rich with contrasts

Earth is omnipresent in Richard Skelton’s music. The UK-based musician, writer and filmmaker often finds inspiration in the landscapes around him or in geological concepts, letting them guide the direction of his art. Previous albums have taken on themes like glaciers or Anglezarke, using sound to evoke the feeling of these places and ideas. But on selenodesy, he leaves the ground and turns his focus to the cosmos. Taking its title from the science of studying and mapping the moon, the record makes the mystery of the universe its playground. Here, Skelton’s electronic compositions mix feathery melodies with the razor-sharp sound of albums like 2021’s A Guidonian Hand to mirror the vastness of the sky.

The sky has become a larger part of Skelton’s life since he moved to the countryside, where stargazing is much more mesmerizing than anywhere in the city. During restless nights, he would look out his window and see the sky glow for miles, watching how it glimmered as he laid in bed half-conscious. Though his work plays off scientific concepts – the album and song titles, for example, all take their names from scientific principles – his music is metaphorical, evoking the sensation of looking out at the stars late at night.

Skelton captures the expanse of the universe by layering contrasting textures, creating depth. No moment stays in stasis for too long: ‘hypervelocity,’ for example, builds from a pillowy, rippling sound, but just when things feel their most graceful, a sharp pang slices through them, offering a change of pace, while ‘lesser gravity’ begins with haunted shimmers that gradually turn into pointy icicles as the track progresses. Elsewhere, Skelton plunges into a black hole of sound, clawing his way back out. ‘The plot of lunar phase’ grows from an ominous, deep drone, layering sharp squeals and eerie hums on top, occasionally sprinkling in some hollow twinkles to offer a little lightness. In moments like these, Skelton’s music depicts the immensity of the night sky, but also the fear that can arise from peering into it, the feeling of being engulfed in the unknown. 

Selenodesy lives in contrasts – expanse and smallness, mellowness and harshness. Because these contrasts live side by side, swirling around each other, much of the album feels anguished and uncertain, like the sensation of spiralling far too deep into your own head. But by the time its final, dramatic burst of energy comes around, there’s a sense of acceptance and release, reminding us that there’s something oddly comforting about the fact that we may never have all the answers about the universe.