the caretaker – an empty bliss beyond this world (2011)

‘”This Caretaker album is built from layers of sampled 78s and albums,” James Kirby told me in an email recently. “Things have been rearranged in places and other things brought in and out of focus. Surface noise”– which is abundant– “is from the original vinyls.”

‘An Empty Bliss Beyond this World was inspired by a 2010 study suggesting that Alzheimer’s patients have an easier time remembering information when it’s placed in the context of music. What makes it unique isn’t that Kirby resuscitates old but vaguely familiar source material; it’s how he edits it. Several of the tracks here take pretty, anodyne phrases and loop them mindlessly; several stop in what feels like mid-thought; several reach back and then jump forward. They never feel filled-in from start to finish, and they tend to linger on moments that feel especially comforting or conclusive: the last flourishes of a song, maybe, the pat on the shoulder, the part when we’re assured everything is drawing to a close.

Kirby isn’t just making nostalgic music, he’s making music that mimics the fragmented and inconclusive ways our memories work… [T]here’s something at least metaphorically beautiful– even slightly funny– about living inside a locked groove, dancing with nobody…

… It’s as though Kirby is trying to trick you into experiencing déjà vu… [T]he source material is music designed not only to comfort, but to sound like it existed before you: hymns, love songs, lullabies. Bliss is eerie because it takes the seduction of those forms and turns it slightly askew; there’s something unsettling about the musical equivalent of a permanent smile.’ – Pitchfork

Get the album on Bandcamp.

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