THE CARETAKER – EVERYWHERE AT THE END OF TIME – STAGE 3

IT IS HAPPENING AGAIN!

No! I’m not talking about Agent Cooper’s riotous return to screens in 2017 – although in the Dooks household, what follows is just as significant. I’m talking about how as of today, we have reached the halfway point of The Caretaker’s swansong missives. Everywhere at The End of Time reaches part three of six.

Today, we delve deeper still into a conceptual suite of sound art tackling worsening dementia, with this instalment’s Ivan Seal cover (above) resembling a kind of ornamental Chrysanthemum or Rose arrangement, with bulbous tubular roots and stems contorting away… But that’s not all. In a couple of weeks there will be a 3 x CD release of the project so far, presumably with a sister release at the latter half of 2018.

The experience of getting these records (via Boomkat in the main) is akin to being part of some existential vinyl club, although it has to be said the bandcamp page offers tremendous value for money with a £5 investment allowing the punter access to the entire project as it happens. I’ve heard that Stephan Mathieu is doing some of the mastering, which is an added bonus.

But for me, it’s the vinyls with Seal’s covers that really make these releases fly.

Well kept vinyl records may outlive us all – if loved (read Evan Eisenberg’s The Recording Angel as a key text in appreciating recent Caretaker output). And so it’s an appropriate medium in which to communicate temporal ideas like the horrors of dementia, even if the sounds are, at first listen, still relatively peaceful. I wouldn’t bet on this being the case for volumes 4-6.

But at the end of the day, I feel that the vinyl format is a fitting tribute to both the ecstasies and misery life may throw. I like holding the ‘canvas’ – and I may have mentioned this before, but Caretaker releases are very sympathetic to the odd scratch, what with static and pops being part of the aesthetic!

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Leyland James Kirby by Matt Wilkinson for Bandcamp

 

When I heard Kirby was doing this project, I was really concerned it might be a little trite. Dementia is not to be flirted with, so it’s nice that he presents an ambitious project about it. I have an interest in the subject and a little experience of the field in my work life, so I was immediately piqued.

Thankfully the project isn’t trite. Of course, it’s not a ‘medical’ project, and yes, there’s a danger in presenting a suite of art projects aligned to a specific medical condition – but for me, dementia is aligned to wider phenomena about letting go and getting lost. Losing our synapses and fibres of identity are, sadly, universal concepts. I hope for the sharpest cognition possible if and when I enter that state.

Before I give it a personal review, lets go straight to Kirby’s press release:

“We are presented with some of the last coherent memories before confusion fully rolls in and the grey mists form and fade away. Finest moments have been remembered, the musical flow in places is more confused and tangled. As we progress some singular memories become more disturbed, isolated, broken and distant. These are the last embers of awareness before we enter the post awareness stages.”

Well.

I sat in the bath last night and played it through, twice. My head was already scrambled. I was exhausted. It had been an extremely challenging week. Things had gone awry. I had to work through the night a couple of times. I was coming off meds also. So at 2am, last night, I fell asleep at one point, listening, only to be jolted back. 

Normally these circumstances of exhaustion would have been an impediment when evaluating music. But actually I was in the optimum spot to appreciate the turn this release takes, which is beginning to sound a little different to the previous two. I’m told by Kirby that it’s going to get much headier after this, so this release is the kind of ‘segue’ between cognition and confusion.

And that, in my view, is quite a sweet spot. Kirby’s releases especially under his own name can be bleak and dystopian, sometimes challenging. Where as some of the previous Caretaker(s) have been dreamy ambient releases – so much so, I’ve even utilised the music for romantic purposes!

Kirby’s work over the years has oscillated between extreme noise/distortion and this other, blissful, curatorial role (he’s calmed down in recent years somewhat since the V/Vm heyday) . So part three – this release, may be a kind of pivot or bridge between structure and collapse not only with the project, but with Kirby’s own hemispheres. 

The first thing that hit me in the bath last night was the sense of familiarity. Is it my imagination or are some tracks from other releases? They have been fairly augmented by now, but there are motifs that return like old friends. It would take some research to go through the back catalogue and find out every reference, but, in the bath, I frequently sat up, wiped the water from my eyes and thought I know this. And I think that’s the point. You’ll know these tunes. And this makes a good point about the falability of memory. Even if some tracks are new, you’ll know them. But in the mix are echoes of previous material. And it’s a gently confusing listen for that reason alone. There was a definite sense of where do I know this from?’ Where am I? There’s a dementia parallel.

Also, as well as this record being a ‘segue’ of sorts, the way the tracks are sequenced are done with little respite. There are more blunt edits with this album than the previous two in the editing, which is very well put together. Tracks rarely fade out on side one, they are spliced – sometimes abrasively and there’s one memorable track – Hidden sea buried deep, where the track breaks apart over an overt ticking heartbeat, where joyful cascades of piano samples are snatched away before we can understand the source material.

In some senses this record reminds me of the very first Caretaker release Selected Memories from The Haunted Ballroom – and whilst the Everywhere at The End of Time project has subtly grown in timbre, production and presentation, this release seems to hint that rougher edges and rockier listening may lie ahead.

Formats: Vinyl LP, limited coloured stock and 3 x CD from Boomkat.com housing the releases so far.

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