Friday, April 20, 2018

The Caretaker - Everywhere At The End Of Time - Stage Four Review

Up until this point, The Caretaker's six-part series on the mental collapse of an Alzheimer's patient has been relatively predictable. Each stage of Everywhere At The End Of Time, from the stimulating Stage One, to the unfolding Stage Two, to the fragmented Stage Three, has calculatedly tracked The Caretaker's concept on a linear trajectory many have grown accustomed to with Leyland Kirby's music. Presumably so, this was Kirby's intent all along; to lull listeners into assuming certainty. That's because, with Stage Four, expectations have been thrown out the window. Four tracks, each clocking in at over 20 minutes, consisting entirely of anguish, emotional decay, and subconscious rot. The Caretaker's glory days of British Dance Band have become a figment of one's imagination, with the agonizing crawl of solitude - brought on by invasive Drone and Glitch - the only remaining tether to life.

This state is felt immediately and thoroughly. Before even listening, a glance at the tracklist shows an eternal loop, only fractured by one fleeting passage of euphoria. Of course, 'Temporary Bliss State,' much like the three 'Post Awareness Confusions',' fictionalizes an emotion by manifesting it within the mind, not by experiencing it in reality. Each piece condenses past and present into a foggy, deconstructed blur. Nothing, whether it's the torturous 'Post Awareness Confusions' that subject the demented to a pain only cognizance can bring you, or the genial and self-satisfying 'Temporary Bliss State,' feature any actualized milestones. They are nothing more than the mind's educated guess on a human's necessity for mood variation. This, a first in The Caretaker's series, as in previous instances - best seen on Stage Two - emotional responses came as a direct result of the past or present. For example, 'Last Moments Of Pure Recall' acted, decisively, as the terminal ballroom dance, while the bluesy horns of 'What Does It Matter How My Heart Breaks' recollected a long lost love. Stage Four, through and through, is but a splotchy mess of abstract art, lacking any discernible face but the one tonal reaction it bestows.

Generally speaking, that's the case with most works Glitch-centric works. Tim Hecker's transparent hues of warmth or duress, Gas' nondescript invitation of night, Fennesz's structureless, dog day aura. On Stage Four, The Caretaker sets himself apart by steadily progressing or detouring the sound, while incorporating past works as fickle, elusive remnants. Unsurprisingly, the three 'Post Awareness Confusions' are drowned in weighted dread, a feeling that blankets every waking moment. As far as Drone releases go, this tactic is fairly rudimentary. However, glaze over the passages, skipping through them at your leisure, and observable distinction arises from the lusterless surface. Scan to 14 minutes in part two and, after a lengthy horn recital, hear the siren call of Hell. Or, the middle portion of part four where a sea of indecipherably, but familiar British Dance Band unseats one another only for a storm of harsh Glitch and thunder strikes to take over. In some ways, Stage Four bears closest resemblance to The Caretaker's demonic, atmospheric gem A Stairway To The Stars, and namely tracks like 'Malign Forces Of The Occult' and 'Each Today Doesn't Lead To A Tomorrow.'

Explicitly describing Everywhere At The End Of Time - Stage Four is a difficult conundrum to overcome. Ironically, it's that unwavering befuddlement that proves The Caretaker's unheralded success. Musically, it's undoubtedly the least appealing stage in the series, considering the vast sea of unsettling uneasiness that permeates all corners. But that's the point. Previously, Everywhere sort've felt like a fairytale reenactment of dementia. Something you'd see in a movie script where hope exists and memory loss is treated as auspicious reverie. No longer is that the case. Pleasantries have subsided and the inevitable march to death, marked by the erasure of all that came before, is all that's left.

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