Monday, September 26, 2016

The Caretaker - Everywhere At The End Of Time Review

Towards the tail end of 2015, I happened upon An Empty Bliss Beyond This World. At the time, my knowledge of Ambient music was limited. In fact, one could argue The Caretaker's seminal work was my introduction to the genre, the slow but steady adoration I have experienced from it a testament to the genre's growing appeal to me overall. It's been five years since that project, the last we've seen from Leyland Kirby (2012's Patience was actually created prior to An Empty Bliss), leaving many to believe the English-born composer might've called it quits after achieving his highest praise yet. Quite the contrary, as hidden behind the copious amount of antique dust and vinyl cracks was Kirby, working tirelessly on what would become Everywhere At The End Of Time. The ambitious concept has already begun making the rounds. Following The Caretaker, who, fictionally, has been diagnosed with dementia, the three-year, six-part deterioration project will signal the end, and death, of Kirby's most popular character. A grim, if not fitting, ending to one of modern music's most unique ideas. Part one finds The Caretaker on good terms, rife with lavish, but tranquil memories. The calm before the storm.

I'll be the first to admit judging Everywhere's initial release without the remaining five components is like watching 1/6th of a movie, walking away, then determining the value of the middle, climax, and end. Silly, but then what is critiquing anyways. And then there's the elephant in the room, the question looming over everyone's mind. "Isn't this just a drawn out Empty Bliss?" While the completed project is far away, all indications point to yes. The major difference, a stressing point of Kirby's in his interview with The Quietus, is the physical passage of time. Alzheimer's isn't a 45-minute process, three years is more applicable. Where will you be in 2019, while an elderly patient's brain has slowly withered away? The Caretaker's  terminal project rewards those with a penchant for patience. And by virtue of sanity still existing, part one of Everywhere, with its chipper nostalgia and delightful passages, presents a brighter picture that's all high and no low. In theory, this makes part one The Caretaker's most musically-focused work since 2002's A Stairway To The Stars. Even though it's the end, these 12 tracks may be the easiest point of entry for curious listeners.

Let's take a look at some examples and the imagery they evoke. The LP begins with 'It's Just A Burning Memory,' which could arguably act as your pin-up Caretaker track. An elegant ballroom rendezvous; nothing more, nothing less. The loops that are ever present in The Caretaker's music are drawn out and elaborated upon here, setting off the feeling of lively recollection, something the next two tracks, 'We Don't Have Many Days' and 'Late Afternoon Drifting,' unfortunately reduce to wilting ash. In terms of appeal for Kirby's eccentric style of music, these short loops, without many detours, restrict enjoyment as the replay value is severely limited. Considering the concept of Everywhere hasn't unfolded yet, these lethargic passages, others like 'An Autumnal Equinox' and 'The Loves Of My Entire Life' included, fail to make an impression against their loftier companions. Those include 'Childishly Fresh Eyes,' which swells with a glistening horn arrangement and golden two-step diddy, and 'Things That Are Beautiful And Transient,' that conjure's such serene, peaceful beauty at what could be a decrepit nursing home.

As mentioned before, even though it doesn't reach the breadth of variety found on Stairway To The Stars, choosing more to associate directly with An Empty Bliss sans retrogression, part one of Everywhere feels like Kirby's most musically-inclined venture in a decade. Not necessarily a good thing mind you, this thorough grandeur comes as an unavoidable side effect of the project's larger ideas, which leaves part one rather one-dimensional. However, there are a few moments where Kirby's knack for meticulous musicianship come into play. One clear example of this is 'Quite Internal Rebellions,' which stands apart from its close company by fluctuating between two foundational samples instead of one, woozily fading in and out of these memories, creating a piece that's both simple and intricate. The same can almost be applied to 'Into Each Others Eyes,' which utilizes its multiple elements more succinctly so as to not force abrupt transitions. There's times when this track feels like a full-fledged composition and not, as per The Caretaker's motto, looped fragments of a distant time. The romantic title indicates such rich memories, something Kirby's always excelled at. Needless to say, the titles found on Everywhere are, as always, just as evocative as the music itself.

While The Caretaker's final project is surely one to admire for its ambitious, and decisive, conclusion, one may worry the execution, at least in our age of instant gratification, seems a bit out of step. Part one of Everywhere is an album that can't be judged as such, being part of a larger piece whose completed work won't be out until 2019. Shouldn't we be waiting it out before jumping to conclusions? In this era, it's not like we have a choice. Part one, while succumbing to content-hungry leeches like myself, succeeds in introducing likely visitors to an intriguing alternate dimension, even if the awe of its fully-decomposing corpse hasn't hit us yet. The impact of An Empty Bliss, both in its riveting highs and barren lows, presents a more concise, impressionable scene, one that succeeds both in sound and style. It's only the former that's present on part one of Everywhere, leaving that picturesque ballroom panorama Kirby has curated for years a bit dry on the dance floor. The visitors are dressed lavishly, proud of their looks and moves, but from an outsiders perspective, their lack of memory-inflicted quarrel's results in a piece that has no pivotal disruption point. As of yet.

No comments:

Post a Comment