“LASTGLACIALMAXIMUM is an album of recordings for the landscape of the British and Irish peninsula as it lay most recently under ice. The general consensus among glaciologists is that the British and Irish Ice Sheet attained its greatest extent — the so-called ‘Last Glacial Maximum’ — between 27 and 21 thousand years ago.
The shifts in timbre and texture between succeeding recordings on this album is imitative of what are known as ‘Dansgaard–Oeschger events’ — rapid cycles between cold and warmer climatic conditions during the last glaciation.”
After over fifteen years active in the underground scene (going back to 2005’s “There is No Cure & Other Songs” by Heidika (Sustain Release)), you know by now that releases by Richard Skelton are very much steeped in some form of inspiration. His last full length under his own name, 2019’s “Border Ballads” was inspired by environmental demarcation of borders between England and Scotland, while this time around Skelton is influenced by an area that is susceptible to ice coverage. The title to the album reflects that last time in history that the ice sheet was greatest, in this particular time mentioned in the press quote above, the majority of Ireland and Wales were covered before the Last Glacial Maximum became the Last Glacial Interstadial which represents the first pronounced warming the result of which including repopulating areas previously covered by ice. The “‘Dansgaard–Oeschger events” which are mentioned as an inspiration in the changes in texture of the tracks refers to the rapid changes of temperatures that occurred twenty five times in the last glacial period.
What you get over the course of eight numerically titled tracks and thirty-nine minutes is an album that be definition of glacial drone. There is a purity to the pieces that removes any element that is superfluous to this particular style of music. What you get is a distillation to the essence of the core of the music. Skelton rather than making the music one dimensional uses layering and differing temperatures of the tones to evoke environmental visions of cold, desolate places that feel obscured by the sun. String and Orchestral feels mix in with (presumably) synths and ambience that at times feels like it is sourced from clattering symbols that have then been put through some sort of treatment. There is an austerity to the pieces that depending on your mood can switch you to assess them and their impact in different ways. One of the highlights for me is “III” which, while the rest of the album could easily fit nicely in a score somewhere, this particular piece uses the quiet/loud dynamic nicely with vast swathes of sound that engulf and then dissipate. On “IIII” the music approaches noise like intensity before reducing to a point that maintains the jarring sort of quality if not the intensity, while on “IIIIII” Skelton experiments in a similar terrain with more ghostly and indeed haunting feel. In some ways this would be the perfect sort of soundtrack to a film about a ghost ship. There is a darkness, the dread, the fear, the isolation, the fluctuations in temperature and light that add to a listen which evokes only qualities that make us wake at night.
It has been awhile since I have heard a pure drone album such as “LASTGLACIALMAXIMUM” as there is a tendency for the music to be quite one dimensional. And sure this album may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those that like to hear an artist who knows exactly what he or she is doing and to do it in such a way that is as engaging as this, then this album will slot in nicely in your Dark Glacial Ambient collection. “LASTGLACIALMAXIMUM” is available on limited CD (100 copies), limited CD with booklet (75 copies) and Digital.