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Listed: Richard Skelton + Danny Paul Grody

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Dusted Features

Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week, two folk composers not averse to droning on: Britian’s Richard Skelton and San Francisco’s Danny Paul Grody.

Listed: Richard Skelton + Danny Paul Grody

Richard Skelton

English composer Richard Skelton records as A Broken Consort, Carousell and Clouwbeck – and releases it primarily through his own Sustain-Release Private Press, an imprint established to distribute his deceased wife’s visual art alongside his own musical output. Dusted’s Evan Hanlon called last year’s reissue of A Box of Birch ”a many-textured, naturalistic record that goes beyond ambience to strike at the emotional and physical core of his home in Lancashire.” Skelton’s latest Broken Consort album, Crow Autumn, weaves textures of guitar, mandolin, piano, violin and accordion into rich orchestral landscapes. It’s out Feb. 9 on Tompkins Square label.

I’ve recently moved house and most of my stuff, including books and records, is still in storage. So I thought I’d select 10 precious things from the internet... where would we be without it?

1. George Mackay Brown - "Hawk"
George Mackay Brown’s nature poetry is sublime. His use of language is simple and devastating. This is a particular favorite of mine from his early work. It’s unsentimental and yet deeply touching. I particularly love the line "And the blackbird / Laid by his little flute for the last time.”

2. John Jacob Niles - "Go ‘Way From My Window"
I’ve had a hard time finding anything by John Jacob Niles online, which is nothing short of a crime. It’s strange actually seeing him sing on this clip. Not what I expected at all. His voice is so incredible, and the stories within the songs so captivating, that I’m completely transported to another world and forget that he’s just an immaculately dressed man playing a strange, oversized dulcimer…

3. Leszek Jankowski - Music for "Street of Crocodiles"
The world of the Brothers Quay is a full of contradictions. Deeply disturbing but profoundly beautiful. This soundtrack by Leszek Jankowski, a regular collaborator of theirs, is just as odd and thrilling. Brilliantly evocative.

4. Skip James - "Hard Time, Killing Floor Blues"
Skip James. Do I need to say any more? There’s a quality to his voice... even on these poor recordings... which is transcendent.

5. Sandy Denny - "Blackwaterside"
I could have chosen any number of songs here... pretty much all of Fairport Convention’s Unhalfbricking is astounding. But her voice is just incredible... something in the inflection, the microtones … sends me to a different world.

6. RS Thomas - "The Ancients of the World"
RS Thomas is another favorite poet of mine. Most of his work deals with life in the isolated, rural communities of the Welsh hills, but this poem has beautiful, mythical overtones.

7. The Ink Spots - "If I Didn’t Care"
I was so affected by this song when I first heard it, many years ago. I didn’t know what doo-wop was. To me, it seemed like the perfect love song from a different era. I later discovered that most of their songs were completely interchangeable. They found the perfect formula and stuck to it.

8. Mikhail Meerovich - Music for "Tale of Tales" by Yuri Norstein
Any excuse to bang on about the work of Yuri Norstein. If you haven’t seen "The Hedgehog in the Fog,” do yourself a favor. I don’t care how old you are. Folk tales are for everyone. "Tale of Tales" is his masterpiece. An absolute must-see.

9. Henyrk Górecki - Symphony No 3
When I first heard Dawn Upshaw singing on this recording, the effect was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Her voice seemed to reach right inside and rip my innards out. It’s the only record I know which has exactly the same effect every time I listen to it. Each time is like the first. An evisceration.

10. Víg Mihály - Music for "Werckmeister Harmonies"
I finally got around to watching this film the other night. The music is not what I’d expect from a Hungarian film, but is beautiful nonetheless. I suppose I was thinking more along the lines of Leszek Jankowski, but this is more like a precursor to the stuff Nick Cave & Warren Ellis have been doing recently, with The Assassination of Jesse James.

Danny Paul Grody

Danny Paul Grody is a founding member of Tarentel and the Drift (both past Listed participants). His latest project is Fountain, a solo recording that draws on disparate influences including West African kora music, 1970s American acoustic guitar and long-form drone composition. It’s out on Roots Strata label now, in a limited edition of 500 copies.

1. Toumani Diabate - The Mande Variations (Nonesuch)
I’m a huge fan of African folk music of all kinds and have a particular affinity to the kora for its warm mesmerizing harp-like tone. When I first heard the music of Toumani Diabate, I was stunned and knew I had stumbled upon something very special. He’s a true master, which is not surprising when considering the family lineage of musicians preceding him… something like 71 generations in a patrilineal line! You pretty much can’t go wrong with any of his recordings, but I’ve recently been digging his latest, The Mande Variations. The recording is very natural sounding. No added reverb, just a great room sound and stellar performances. His playing is so fluid and elegant that it’s easy to forget just how complex the music really is. I had the honor of seeing him live not too long ago and was completely blown away. One of the most inspiring live experiences. He would intersperse his playing with very personal stories about his family and cultural history, explaining the deep tradition of the kora in West Africa, and his visions of world peace. So genuine and pure.

2. Bola Sete - Ocean (Lost Lake Arts)
This is a record that definitely cracked open a new dimension or two in my understanding of what an unaccompanied guitar was capable of sounding like. I had already been knee deep into my obsession with finger style guitarists like the great John Fahey and Leo Kottke when I came across the music of Bola Sete. What set him instantly apart from those players was that he came from Brazil and had a lifetime of performing jazz and samba under his belt, playing with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Vince Guaraldi and Lalo Schifrin. It wasn’t until well into his career as an ensemble player that he would explore solo work such as what you hear on Ocean. His ability to traverse between barely there plucks to massive cascades of notes in one fell swoop is amazing to me and a testament to his impressive past. The music on Ocean has traces of tropicalia, flamenco, and nods to luminaries such as Robbie Basho, Peter Lang, and the aforementioned Fahey. It’s a beautiful hybrid of styles that manages to remain completely singular and resonating to me.

3. Mark Hollis - Mark Hollis (Polydor)
Mark Hollis is best known for his work in the much adored group Talk Talk. After the release of the band’s final and arguably best record Laughing Stock in 1991, Hollis was said to have vanished from sight for the next seven years. It wasn’t until 1998 that he emerged with this beautiful quiet solo album. In many ways it can be thought of as somewhat of a continuation to where Talk Talk had left off, but without the wide-screen grandeur the band tended towards. Instead he favors a much more intimate, inward, and subtle place using a mostly acoustic palette to great affect. The overall feel is very lucid and shadowy, where objects fade in and out of focus as if in some half-dream state. What amazes me too is that despite how sparse the music can appear, I continue to discover new details with each listen. A timeless record from a fascinating man.

4. Richard Crandell - In the Flower of Our Youth (Sound Advice)
I was first introduced to Crandell’s guitar music through the compilation Wayfaring Stranger: Guitar Soli, released by the wonderful Numero Group. His track "Diagonal" really stuck out for me and is among my favorites of his still. I promptly sought out more of his work and picked up the aptly titled In The Flower Of Our Youth. I was really surprised not to have heard this music before, as it contained all the things I’m drawn toward… delicate finger-style playing and beautiful melodies that linger well beyond the listen. There’s an uncanny quality to his music I can’t quite place, too. It’s as if I listened to it as a child and the echo of that memory left an indelible mark. So lovely. It’s also worth checking out his more recent mbira recording’s on the Tzadik label, Mbira Magic and Spring Steel.

5. Richard Skelton - Marking Time (Preservation CD/Type LP)
Been really enjoying the recent output of UK based musician Richard Skelton, who’s been churning out a steady stream of quality releases in the last couple years mostly under his name or as A Broken Consort. Marking Time is the first title under his own name and perfectly distills much of what captivates me about his music. Layers of metallic bowed guitar, violin, field recordings, with the occasional chiming piano, all coalesce into an entrancing spell. The mood is at times bleak, but also contains moments of solace, hope and ambiguity. What is most striking though is how he’s able to channel so much feeling from relatively simple sources. Nothing bangs you over the head emotionally though. Melodies splinter into ghostly fragments, leaving a generous amount of space for your mind to wander.

6. Andrew Chalk - The Cable House (Faraway Press)
Here’s another recent release that’s got a hold on me. I came to know Chalk’s music through the amazing duo Mirror, a collaboration with Christoph Heemann that is every bit as intriguing as Chalk’s solo work. Like Mirror, Chalk explores a very discreet atmospheric sound that seems to turn to magic in his hands. I’m mystified by how the piano can transform into something so otherworldly and beautiful. Cable House finds Chalk exploring a more fully formed melodic approach than what I’m used to, which is not to say there isn’t a healthy dose of atmosphere as well. A good point of reference might be the treated piano collaborations of Brian Eno and Harold Budd, or William Basinski’s decayed piano loops. It’s the kind of music you imagine putting on when it’s cold outside. I have an ever-growing catalogue of music I like to unwind to in the evening and go to sleep to. This has been on the top of that list. Dreamy.

7. Roedelius - Wenn der Sudwind weht (Sky Records)
One of my favorites by Cluster/Harmonia co-founder Hans-Joachim Roedelius. There’s so much to mine in this man’s impressive catalogue, but I keep returning to this record time and time again. There’s just such a nice bubbly pulse throughout – an especially mellow vibe. Like clouds passing by. A balm for the soul. So very satisfying and an especially nice listening experience for my morning commute on the subway.

8. Oneohtrix Point Never - Rifts (No Fun)
While on the subject of cosmic music from Germany, it only seems appropriate to give a shout out to Daniel Lopatin’s project Oneohtrix Point Never. This dude has been getting some serious hype recently and I must say it’s well deserved. Rifts is a massive survey of OPN’s work, pooling together a nicely remastered collection of his first three albums: Betrayed in the Octagon, Zones Without People and Russian Mind. There’s definitely traces of the synth-based work of groups like Cluster and Tangerine Dream, with its arpeggiations and dreamscapes, but rather than following in the footsteps, Lopatin succeeds in creating something striking and new.

9. Circle - Miljard (Ektro Records)
This record stands out as somewhat of an anomaly for Finnish band Circle and is definitely one of my all-time favorites of theirs. Despite their insanely prolific output and propensity to switch things up, you’d still be hard pressed to guess it was them. Something really unique came together here. Gone are the motorik drums and heavy riffs. This is full-on drift. The kind that is content to go on forever and is all the better for it. Piano’s pulse, guitars flicker, and drums fumble with an almost mechanized quality. The music inhabits a kind of in-between space, bringing to mind the tone cluster’s of Morton Feldman’s compositions and the concept of "Furniture Music" coined by Erik Satie in the early part of the 20th century, defined as background music originally played by live performers. But this isn’t simply background music. There is plenty to engage with here and a lot to learn from. Time travel never felt so good.

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