Ambitious project from Leyland Kirby, sadly retiring The Caretaker with a grand bow (briefly: 6 albums over 3 years tracking the onset of dementia)
The first one is by turns bigly brassy and quietly colourful; stately waltzes and crepuscular dazes. Alongside the rubric it’s poignantly revealing: these are the true, unblemished memories of the Caretaker; decrepit yet charming, untouched by the oncoming mist. (see titles ‘All that follows is true’, ‘An autumnal equinox’) A final tour of the ballroom before the candles start to fizzle down to their bases. (Highlights: the carefree jaunty sax on ‘All that follows’; the grand circular sweep of ‘It’s just a burning memory’; the next-door fumbling of ‘Slightly bewildered’; the archetypal LK dream-sequence-into-fireside-grammophone loop on ‘Quiet internal rebellions’)
The second stage is the self realisation and awareness that something is wrong with a refusal to accept that. More effort is made to remember so memories can be more long form with a little more deterioration in quality. The overall personal mood is generally lower than the first stage and at a point before confusion starts setting in.
He ramps up the reverb on opener ‘A losing battle is raging’, creating a shimmering fog behind the mournful brass and prominent, marching 78-rpm sweep of a worn needle, outlasting both before cutting out. Gentle but highly strung tension, less drifting than barely staying afloat. Like an aural cataract. It’s very sad.
Sonorous vaudevillian vocals on ‘Misplaced in time’, slowed down and pitch-shifted? Almost ‘illbient’ queasiness – something not quite right. Here as so often LK uses repetition and arbitrary iteration to increase the sense of aborted recovery, incomplete recollection. The fact that it’s track 3, ‘What does it matter how my heart breaks’, which recycles the loop from A1 (‘It’s just a burning memory’) suggests an uneasily belated flash of inspiration; increased reverb and deeper pitch corroborate with ‘Misplaced’ but otherwise the change is gradual, (fatigue in the slightest of delays before iteration, the truncated runtime) especially when compared consecutively with the original.
‘Glimpses of hope in trying times’ begins like a loopless ambient piece before ominous horns and echoes suggest real distress; evoking a spaced-out noir soundtrack – unsettled snooping down at the docks, notion of being followed. Definitely a rare excursion for TC; open space contrasts with regular pacing of Stage 1. Mournful strings interject intermittently but subside – imagined glimpse of a missing lover on the waters. (swimmað oft on weg) Top level.
Slow again on ‘Surrendering to despair’, echoing woodwinds puff antagonistically away like a halting school band – but then advancing thump of the needle fading in and out; suggestion of an ambling beat, even. (like footsteps on a gravel path) Incongruity, disorientation. A return to moonlit gloom on ‘I still feel as though I am me’; very threatening hum before a beautifully nimble fiddle around 1.10 with accompanying sax. Here and elsewhere we do seem to depart from LK’s script – these samples are unlike much of TC’s other recollections (Random Access Memories Memories this isn’t) – but the variety, while unexpected, is producing some of his most inspired results; strong visuals, diaristic narrative development, transfixing combination of distress and beauty.
Relative return to type on ‘Quiet dusk coming early’, though another linear track devoid of cyclical brevity, contributing again to the cinematic atmosphere. ‘Last moments of pure recall’ lurches looping into life, indeed consonant with much of Stage 1. These two standing mostly on the strengths of the samples, which are nevertheless two of the album’s best.
‘Denial unravelling’ returns to the uneasy editing of the albums openers; an almost parodically serene, lethargic glide around the dancefloor; dopey closed looping. Then ending with ‘The way ahead feels lonely’: distant bells mark the path, a straight track into the woods with lamplight behind slowly fading, ‘with wandering steps and slow’. Full circle with the melancholy mood, but where we started with vision faded internally we end with a more external dying of the light. Dreamlike, but only because reality has become dreamlike, with no place for sleep revival. Not waving but sinking.