The Caretaker - Everywhere At The End Of Time
(History Always Favours The Winners)
I first caught wind of The Caretaker project, helmed and produced by James Leyland Kirby, in 2011 with the release of his beautifully mind-numbing LP, An Empty Bliss Beyond This World. Our son had just been born a month prior and we were living in a new and confusing world of shortened sleep, alien emotions and alternate realities. An Empty Bliss Beyond This World became a soundtrack for this new state of being and even when it wasn’t spinning on the turntable, it felt like the haunted loops and archaic ballads Kirby had constructed were infinitely spinning in my mind.
Why was this music specifically so complimentary to my state of being? I was not alone. Nearly everyone I played this dramatic music for would quizzically wonder, “What IS this?” Perhaps it’s the concept.
Kirby donned himself “The Caretaker” as a tribute to the character in Kubrick’s The Shining as well as for the serene yet ghostly ballroom music that was perfectly utilized in the film. His idea with the project, and with An Empty Bliss Beyond This World, was to examine how Alzheimer’s patients process memory when it is presented alongside music. Could memory be summoned in the form of music rather than specific events? The LP carefully detailed this as early jazz-age loops were presented out of context and treated as ambient pieces to run in and out of your consciousness. Kirby sampled actual 78 records, with surface noise and all, to keep these haunted soundscapes grounded in reality while transporting your mind somewhere else entirely. At times you will hear vinyl pops, clicks and skips. It’s the sound of audio decay, mimicking the life experience we all share.
After additional releases as The Caretaker, Leyland Kirby proper, and a new project called The Stranger, Kirby announced the final stage and phasing out of The Caretaker. But he was going out lavishly. In 2016 he detailed the 6-part, multi-release album, Everywhere At The End Of Time which reveals that The Caretaker himself (the project, not the producer) has dementia! Each part or each LP, will examine the different stages of dementia with each installment detailing the progression of memory loss or as Kirby put it in his press release; “towards the abyss of complete memory loss and nothingness.”
The first LP (or Phase 1), was released late last year and the second LP (Phase 2) is now here. Both continue to explore this same method of repurposing old 78s drenched in atmosphere and reverb in a manner like Throbbing Gristle did with their "Gristleizer". However in the case of The Caretaker, he is clearly experiencing the early stages of memory degradation. There’s less of a reliance on short, playful loops and he more or less lets the songs play out in their entirety with some well-placed edits. The overall effect is as tormented, beautiful and arresting as all of The Caretaker’s work and every bit as essential as some of the landmark works in the ambient genre.
We still have limited copies of Phase 1 and Phase 2 available however these will not be around these parts for long. Give these a listen and feel yourself slip away. And do stay tuned for future installments. The final curtain call, soon to come. (Dom)
Check out tracks here and here.