Caretaker


(Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom (1999), 6.5/10
A Stairway To The Stars (2001), 7/10
We'll All Go Riding On A Rainbow (2003), 6/10
Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia (2005), 6/10
Additional Amnesiac Memories (2006), 6/10
Deleted Scenes/Forgotten Dreams (2007), 6/10
Persistent Repetition Of Phrases (2008), 6.5/10
Recollections From Old London Town (2009) , 6/10
An Empty Bliss Beyond This World (2011), 5/10
Patience (2012), 5/10
Sadly The Future Is No Longer What It Was (2009) , 7.5/10
Eager To Tear Apart The Stars (2011), 6.5/10
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V/Vm is a project that English electronic musician James Kirby started in the 1990s to modify well-known songs to turn them into parodies. He made dozens of such recordings.

Kirby's more serious project is Caretaker, that operates at the border of sampling (ancient pop and dance standards), glitch electronica and ambient music. This one too produced an endless series of recordings, but instead of parodies these sounded like post-modernist revisions of stereotypes that were full of meaning; evocative and nostalgic but also intellectually challenging. Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom (V/Vm Test Records, 1999), A Stairway To The Stars (V/Vm Test Records, 2001), perhaps the best one, and We'll All Go Riding On A Rainbow (V/Vm Test Records, 2003) sounded like concept albums, and with a high-brow concept actually. At the same time, the general concept of music "not to be listened to" was reminiscent of the original manifesto of Brian Eno's ambient music.

A Stairway To The Stars opens with the gloomy whirlwind of murmurs of We Cannot Escape The Past, that sounds like a biblical omen. It then journeys through vignettes that are ethereal and otherworldly (Emptiness), gothic industrial (Consigned To A Yesterday), abstract and shapeless (Masquerade Ball), menacing and dissonant (Malign Forces Of The Occult), angelic and timeless (Friends Past Re-united), brooding electronic muzak (Date With An Angel), psychedelic distortion (Home), etc. The seven-minute closer, A Stairway To The Stars, provided a manual of instructions on how to create Caretaker-like music as it mauls and mutates a carnival-like melody to become an anguished metaphysical drone. This album marked a pinnacle of Kirby's art, as there was little left of the original sources and mostly one heard a solemn symphony of the collective subconscious. This was basically highly emotional musique concrete, whose outcome was actually often akin to classical music.

The massive Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia (V/Vm Test Records, 2005) collected 70 more imitations.

After Additional Amnesiac Memories (V/Vm Test Records, 2006) and Deleted Scenes Forgotten Dreams (V/Vm Test Records, 2007), the Caretaker had refined its art to an almost baroque degree.

Persistent Repetition Of Phrases (V/Vm Test Records, 2008), wrapped in waves of static noise, signaled an even more existential (Rosy Retrospection, one of his best recreations of the ballroom of the Titanic) and cosmic (Poor Enunciation) mission, next to sophisticated William Basinski-esque games (Persistent Repetition Of Phrases), to abstract soundscapes (Past Life Regression) and to almost musique concrete (Von Restorff Effect).

Recollections From Old London Town (V/Vm Test Records, 2009)

Caretaker's An Empty Bliss Beyond This World (History Always Favours the Winners, 2011) sounds deliberately like a collage of vintage dance jazz records.

Leyland Kirby used his own name for the much more musical triple-disc Sadly the Future Is No Longer What It Was (History Always Favours the Winners, 2009), originally, a three-volume six-LP box-set (two LPs in each volume). This time Kirby composed ambient music from snippets of old 78RPM records. The music is purely instrumental, but rarely have titles meant so much, and, in fact, been more poetic than the usually trite lyrics of popular music.
The first volume was When We Parted My Heart Wanted To Die (76:40). Its title-track recycles plaintive piano and street noise into a melancholy adagio, the most touching moment of the set. The Sound Of Music Vanishing is a whirlwind of shapeless sounds intersected by brief melodramatic drones that are eventually swallowed up by a puffing machine. The Beauty Of The Impending Tragedy Of My Existence is an unnerving, suspense-filled concerto for metallic drones and snore-like glitches. The turbulent ocean of And As I Sat Beside You I Felt The Great Sadness That Day emits an anthemic organ-like melodic figure, an ecstatic ode to the titanic aspect of the human condition. The gentle slow-motion lullaby of Tonight Is The Last Night Of The World sounds like a requiem for all living beings. The 20-minute To The Place Between The Twilight And The Dawn is a more unstructured dialogue between jazzy piano, electronic hisses and distant voices that seems to die under the weight of an invisible but palpable superhuman force.
The second volume, Sadly The Future Is No Longer What It Was (78:57) tries in vain to emulate the magic of When We Parted with the tenuous piano sonata of When Did Our Dreams And Futures Drift So Far Apart?. A shamanic flute and bells push the ambient drift of Not Even Nostalgia Is As Good As It Used To Be into dejavu new-age territory. The 20-minute title-track relies too much on a Morricone-like leitmotif that simply repeats itself as if looking for the right way to make an emotional dent and ultimately overstays its welcome. Hence the first half of the sophomore album is a mediocre imitation of the first one. However, Kirby still has enough inspiration to deliver the blurred wall of glitches of Stay Light There Is A Rainbow A Coming, slowly revealing a choir and a wealth of peripheral movements, as well as the (finally) moving serenade of I've Hummed This Tune To All The Girls I've Known, another Morricone-like theme but this time more solemn in tone and rivaled by a secondary string-like theme. The tender and nostalgic Not As She Is Now But As She Appears In My Dreams is typical of Kirby's unique concept of a piano sonata: the notes of the piano flow slowly, and their timbre is not particularly pretty, thus emphasizing the silence in between.
Memories Live Longer Than Dreams (79:58), the third volume, recovers some of the poetry that was lost in the second one, and it does so by relying more on Kirby's timeless style of piano sonata. Memories Live Longer Than Dreams is a sentimental music-box refrain lost in lugubrious wind, the distance causing a time warp between the notes. The even more ghostly piano notes of Don't Sleep I Am Not What I Seem I'm A Very Quiet Storm are immersed in a soft murmur that oscillates like ocean waves.
The pandemonium of industrial and nuclear dissonance abruptly unleashed by A Longing To Be Absorbed For A While Into A Different And Beautiful World is a welcome shift of mood: a hyper-charged symphony of musique concrete that ends in subsonic rumbles and cryptic radio signals.
The 17-minute Stralauer Peninsula too represents a new form in Kirby's ouvre: the equivalent of an impressionistic watercolor. Some murky watery fluctuations play the melody, sometimes sounding like a female Japanese singer, while some other feeble droning and glitchy elements fill the
We All Won That Day Sunshine returns to the piano sonata form, slowly hammering one of his cinematic themes over a sinister, burbling background radiation; and And At Dawn Armed With Glowing Patience We Will Enter The Cities Of Glory surprisingly intones an old-fashioned country melody that an orchestra joins and turns into a celestial hymn.
Taken together the three album represent one of the most monumental efforts to redefine music as an art of recycling.

Eager To Tear Apart The Stars (History Always Favors The Winners, 2011) is basically its continuation and contains one of the most haunting composition in that vein, They Are All Dead, There Are No Skip At All.

The four-LP Intrigue & Stuff (History Always Favours The Winners, 2011), credited again to Kilby in person, expanded the style of those works to psychedelic electronica (Video 2000) while retaining the principles of Caretaker's "hauntological" music.

Patience (History Always Favors The Winners, 2012), conceived as the soundtrack to a documentary on German writer Sebald, was constructed from 78 RPM records of Franz Schubert's lieder.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Claudio Vespignani)

V/vm e' il progetto che il musicista elettronico inglese Leyland Kirby avvio' a meta' anni 90 per storpiare canzoni estremamente popolari fino a tramutarle in vere e proprie parodie. In questo stile realizzo' una moltitudine di dischi.

Il suo progetto serio e' The Caretaker, con cui opera ai confini del sampling (pop e standard da ballo anni '20/30), elettronica glitch e ambient. Anche con questa sigla ha prodotto una serie infinita di registrazioni, ma anziche' parodie ha realizzato revisioni post-moderne di stereotipi ricchissime di significati, evocative, nostalgiche e intellettualmente stimolanti. Selected memories from the haunted ballroom (V/vm test records, 1999), A stairway to the stars (V/vm test records, 2001), forse il migliore di tutti, e We'll all go riding on a rainbow (V/vm test records, 2003), suonano come dei concept album, ma con concetti altamente intellettuali. Al contempo, la teoria di musica "da non essere ascoltata" riportava al manifesto originale della musica ambient di Brian Eno.

A stairway to the stars si apre col cupo vortice di mormorii di We cannot escape the past, che suona come un presagio biblico, dopodiche' passa attraverso vignette eteree ed ultraterrene (Emptiness), gotico industriali (Consigned to a yesterday), astratte ed informi (Masquerade Ball), minacciose e dissonanti (Malign forces of the occult), angeliche ed eterne (Friends Last re-united), sottofondi elettronici meditabondi (Date with an angel), distorsioni psichedeliche (Home).

In chiusura, i sette minuti di A stairway to the stars forniscono un manuale di istruzioni su come creare musica da Caretaker, tramite la mutazione di una melodia carnevalesca in un angoscioso, metafisico ronzio. L'album segna un picco dell'arte di Kirby, dato che era rimasto ben poco delle fonti originarie e ciò che si ode nel complesso e' una solenne sinfonia del subconscio collettivo. Si tratta sostanzialmente di musica concreta ad alto tasso emotivo, il cui risultato finale si avvicina sul serio alla musica classica.

Il gigantesco Theorerically pure anterograde amnesia (V/vm test records, 2005), raccoglie altre 70 variazioni sul tema.

Dopo Addictional amnesiac memories (V/vm test records, 2006) e Deleted scenes / Forgotten dreams (V/vm test records, 2007), Caretaker ha elevato la propria arte ad un livello quasi barocco.

Persistent repetition of phrases (V/vm test records, 2008), avvolto in ondate di rumore statico, rivela una missione ancor più esistenziale (Rosy retrospection, una delle sue migliori messe in scena della sala da ballo del Titanic) e cosmica (Poor enunciation), prossima alle trame sofisticate di William Basinski (Persistent repetition of phrases), a scenari astratti (Past life regression) e alla musica concreta (Von Restorff effect).

Recollections from old London town (V/vm test records 2009).

An empty bliss beyond this world (History always favours the winners, 2011) e' un collage intenzionale di vecchi dischi jazz da ballo.

Kirby ha usato il proprio nome per il ben più musicale triplo Sadly, the future is no longer what it was (2009 History always favours the winners), originalmente un cofanetto di tre doppi vinili. Per l'occasione Kirby ha composto musica ambient partendo da frammenti di vecchi 78 giri. La musica e' interamente strumentale, ma raramente i titoli hanno avuto così tanto significato ed infatti sono molto più poetici delle solite e trite liriche della musica popolare.

Il primo volume e' When we parted, my heart wanted to die (76:40). La title-track unisce un lamento pianistico a rumori stradali per creare un adagio malinconico che rappresenta il momento più toccante dell'intero lotto. The sound of music vanishing e' un vortice di suoni deformi intersecato da drones rapidi e melodrammatici, che alla fine viene risucchiato da una serie di sbuffi meccanici. The beauty of the impending tragedy of my existence e' una serie snervante e ricca di suspense di ronzii metallici e glitches ronfanti. Il turbolento oceano di And as I sat beside you I felt the great sadness that day e' una figura melodica di grande enfasi per organo che rappresenta un ode estatica agli aspetti titanici della condizione umana. La dolce ninna-nanna al rallentatore di Tonight is the last night of the world suona come un requiem per tutti gli esseri viventi. I venti minuti di To the place between twilight and dawn si basano su un dialogo destrutturato fra fraseggi di piano jazz, sibili elettronici e voci che sembrano soccombere sotto il peso di un'impressionante forza umana invisibile, ma ben presente.

Il secondo volume, Sadly, the future is no longer what it was (78.57) tenta vanamente di ripetere la magia del primo con la tenue, pianistica When did our dreams and future drift apart so far?. Campane e flauto sciamanico spingono l'ambient di Not even nostalgia is as good as it used to be verso territori new age fin troppo conosciuti. Nei 20 minuti della title-track Kirby indugia troppo su un tema morriconiano alla ricerca del climax emotivo ma che si ripiega eccessivamente su se stesso. Così, la prima metà del secondo volume e' una mediocre imitazione del primo.

Tuttavia, Kirby ha ancora sufficiente ispirazione per creare la fosca muraglia di glitches di Stay light, there is a rainbow coming, che schiude lentamente un coro e movimenti periferici in abbondanza, così come la serenata in movimento di I've hummed this tune to all the girls I've known, altro tema morriconiano ma questa volta dai toni più solenni e rilanciato da un motivo d'archi in sottofondo. La delicata e nostalgica Not as she is now but as she appears in my dreams e' il tipico prototipo della ballad pianistica di Kirby; le note scorrono lentamente ed il timbro non e' particolarmente accattivante, in modo da enfatizzare i silenzi fra di esse.

Memories live longer than dreams (79:58), terzo volume, recupera parte della poesia che si era persa nel secondo, e lo fa affidandosi maggiormente all'eterno stile di Kirby al piano. Il tema sentimentale di music box della title-track si perde in un vento lugubre, e la distanza fra le note crea una deformazione temporale. Note che si fanno persino più spettrali in Don't sleep, I am not what I seem, I am a very quiet storm, immerse in un mormorio tenue che oscilla come un onda oceanica.

Il caos industriale di dissonanze nucleari bruscamente rilasciato da A longing to be absorbed for a while into a different and beautiful world segna un salutare cambio d'umore; una sinfonia stra-carica di musica concreta che termina fra rombi subsonici e segnali radio criptici. Anche i 17 minuti di Stralauer peninsula rappresentano una nuova modalità espressiva per Kirby, l'equivalente di un acquarello impressionistico. La melodia e' fornita da fluttuazioni acquatiche torbide, rievocanti a tratti i vocalizzi di una cantante giapponese. Altri deboli ronzii e glitches segnano il ritorno alla ballad pianistica con We all won that day, sunshine, che sfodera un altro dei suoi temi cinematici sopra una sinistra e gorgogliante radiazione di sottofondo. And at dawn, armed with glowing patience, we will enter the cities of glory intona sorprendentemente un vecchio country a cui si unisce un orchestra che lo tramuta in un inno celestiale.

Presi nel complesso, i tre dischi rappresentano uno degli sforzi più monumentali di ridefinire la musica come arte del riciclaggio.

Eager to tear apart the stars (History always favours the winners, 2011), e' sostanzialmente un suo breve proseguio e vanta una delle composizioni più ossessive in questa vena, They are all Dead, there are no skip at all.

I 4 volumi della serie Intrigue & Stuff (History always favours the winners, 2011), ancora accreditati a Kirby, ampliano lo spettro di tali lavori all'elettronica psichedelica (Video 2000), pur conservando i principi base della musica hauntologica di Caretaker.

Patience (History always favours the winners, 2012), di Caretaker, concepita come colonna sonora di un documentario sullo scrittore tedesco Sebald, e' costruita partendo dai 78 giri delle romanze di Franz Schubert.

 

 

 

(Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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