An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
GUEST BLOGGER – GRACE LEHMAN
The Caretaker – brainchild (in every sense of the word) of electronic musician James Leyland Kirby and is one of the most innovative and exciting electronic sounds of recent years. His music not only encompasses the most cutting edge of technology but in his recent album “An Empty Bliss Beyond This World” he’s managed to meld the 21st century with the beautiful crackle of the beginning of the last century too.
An Empty Bliss
Kirby, an English musician hailing from Stockport in the North West of the country had been releasing and recording his own work as “V/vm” on the “V/vm Test Records” label for the past few years. And while that project hasn’t been permanently abandoned, taking on the guise of The Caretaker has seen him produce some of his most vivid and interesting music to date.
The idea of The Caretaker as an electronic act was inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” although Kirby also gains inspiration from writers such as Dennis Potter too (Potter was an ardent fan of the 1930s singer Al Bowlly, who was killed in an air raid during World War Two – suggestions of Bowlly’s musical sound appear in An Empty Bliss…) Kirby is fascinated by science and the science of the mind and brain – and his interest in this particularly extends to the condition of amnesia. He believes that people who suffer from the illness will still be able to recall memories laid down before it happened, but that the thoughts and feelings they have will exist in a transient world where anything beyond their immediate attention-span disappears permanently from their consciousness. It’s a similar kind of idea that people who have used drug addiction facilities and resources have described in their treatment and rehabilitation.
Electronic And Not
This album attempts to connect the modern electronica with the vintage. The overall feel is like being trapped in a dusty ballroom, or in the dying days of Music Hall – you can feel a layer of cobweb over the recording machine – a haze in the room, stale smoke from long put out cigars and cigarettes, champagne glasses knocked over and left there on the tables. The samples used in the recordings come from genuine 78s, dating from the 1920s and 1930s, and they’re layered and layered with lots of ambient and trippy sounds to age them even further – to make them sound distant and removed, but at the same time an acknowledged feeling of “knowing” the sounds.
This is the sort of electronica that you can let seep into your consciousness without you even knowing it. Before long, the songs, the music is in your head and you’re aware of it – sometimes not recognising where it’s from until you hear the album again.
Another feeling you take from the music is a sense of loss, a sense of absence. The original music that is sampled was around at a time of war and great social change, by using these tracks and combining them with spaced out background noise, crackles and hisses it really gives a feeling of emptiness. Some of the tracks on the album cut off suddenly – some of the tracks are repeated again, it all gives a juxtaposed sense of relaxed unease.
Another element you sense from the album is one of having your own memories jolted. A common theme in electronic music mostly coming from the use of sampling means that you hear elements of songs or other tunes that make you think of maybe certain periods in your own life, or things that have passed. You might hear the samples and think you recognise them as perhaps something you might have heard in your Grandparent’s house when you were a child. It’s an unusual route to take in a way – by using such remote and lost samples from a vintage age, but one that combines surprisingly well with modern programming.
The Caretaker’s Discography:
Altogether as the outfit The Cartaker, Leyland Kirby has released nine albums, all of which are available from brainwashed.com.
Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom 1999
A Stairway To The Stars 2001
We’ll All Go Riding On A Rainbow 2003
Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia 2005
Additional Amnesiac Memories 2006
Deleted Scenes / Forgotten Dreams 2007
Persistent repetition of phrases 2008
An Empty Bliss Beyond This World 2011
Patience (After Sebald) (to be released 2012)