The Caretaker The CaretakerAn Empty Bliss Beyond This World
Before there was any talk of hauntology, The Caretaker was already around, poking in the fine sand of memory with a little stick. Even before the Ghost Box label (but not before Broadcast and Boards Of Canada, proto-hauntology groups if ever there were), James “Leyland” Kirby had already made this his main project, the one he would spend most of his time on, once the sonic terrorism of his first alias, V/Vm started to show wear and tear. From 1999 on, the year “Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom” was released, Kirby released enough music as The Caretaker to fill more than six album, between vinyl recordings, digital releases and even colossal boxes like “Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia”, half a dozen recordings in one go, which reinforced one of the two aesthetic branches the projects has split into, the one of slow macerations of ambient flashes with a melancholic and/or obsessive undertones that trigger memories of the past, in an alert kind of state hovering between the spiritual and physical worlds.
After all this time, little has changed in the strategy of The Caretaker. On a formal level, “An Empty Bliss Beyond This World” is directly related to the first album –the re-creation of a dance salon with gas lamps shining a faint light, full of spectrums dancing a waltz on a rotten floor, like at the end of the film “Carnival Of Souls”; and the second to last, “Persistent Repetition Of Phrases” (Install, 2008), with its abundance of samples from shellac records from the twenties, primitive jazz, salon dance and classical music recordings eroded by time and needle. The whole vinyl –the CD will be available in a week– has this foggy and vintage halo of the old 78 RPM recordings. Kirby’s idea is based on the medical research in the vein of Oliver Sacks tested on Alzheimer’s patients, whereby in advanced stages of the illness when the patient’s memory has reached an extreme level of deterioration, he or she will still capable of clearly remembering the songs of his or her youth. “An Empty Bliss”, therefore, wants to be like a vivid memory in a frame of reference that is worn-down, where only random pieces of jazz sound, and pieces of music that were used in bygone radio ads and series.
Beyond the conceptual idea, the record is beautiful. Where Kirby gets the original recordings which he then dismounts and wraps up in vinyl crackling, static noise and foggy atmospheres, is unknown, probably from antique stores or yard sales. The important thing is the effect. At times, it’s like a prolonged take on the music from the soundtrack of “Blade Runner” that referred to the crazy years of the early 20th Century. “Camaraderie At Arms Length” and “Libet’s Delay” are like the songs that inspired Vangelis’ “One More Kiss”. At other times, it’s as if a rickety shellac record were playing with interpretations on piano of compositions by Debussy ( “The Great Hidden Sea Of The Unconscious”), and almost always there is a desolate mood, of a heart in ruins, of acoustic contamination in the form of coughs and croaks ( “Mental Caverns Without Sunshine”) that’s reminiscent of the ambient works of Kirby himself. All in all, these are fifteen tracks, some ending abruptly –like those memories that come, go and never are recovered again– that add another splendid page to his style book, while they fill the space with spirits.
“Camaraderie At Arms Length”