“The interior where the soul accommodates its collection of memoirs and curios is derelict. Memories cannot be conserved in drawers and pigeon-holes; in them the past is indissolubly woven into the present. No-one has them at his disposal….”
–Theodor Adorno, “All the little flowers.”
“And the gardens are full of flowers,
Like a quiet fire. Up above
In the light the silver snow
Blooms, and ivy grows from ancient
Times on the inapproachable walls,
Like a witness to immortal life”
– Friedrich Hölderlin, “Patmos”
”’You’re the caretaker, sir,’ Grady said mildly. ‘You’ve always been the caretaker. I should know, sir. I’ve always been here.’”
–Stephen King, The Shining
All you are going to want to do is get back there.
That gray scroll rests on an empty horizon, blank and unraveling into folds like the creases of a brain or a newspaper. It seems petrified as a statue, stuck in the pose of discomposure, without revealing anything of its history. Its timeline is erased; in its roll is shadow. The simple artwork is foreboding for the bright compositions found here.
Everywhere at the end of time names the final six-stage series in The Caretaker’s enduring study of memory and decay, in which the releases will progressively deteriorate. It’s a deliberate project. Even how the album was released, without warning on the autumn equinox, seems an affective decision: to be eventless and to be at the edge of seasons. The songs in this first stage are reminiscent of the sunniest reconstructions from An empty bliss beyond this World. Instead of the unsettling halts, bumps, and off-kilter repeated phrases or hazy filters that characterized earlier releases, Everywhere for the most part preserves a familiar and comforting swing in the arrangement of its parts. It’s the most accessible and pleasurable listen from The Caretaker.
But any joy derived from listening to this music surrenders to decay. It admits a sentimental fascination with memory loss, a fetishization of mortality, and a kind of spellbound longing for a past still future. Presence feels suspended at the end of time; anxiety falls away into a sort of affective hold. The haunting sounds of Everywhere don’t conjure any specific memories at all for me, but induce the feeling of memory. Recall of recall. Timelessness in a locked groove. This is the unsettling power of The Caretaker’s cozying dissociative work, a dance between memory and dream, to draw us out of the ambient plague of screens and anxiety into a world we were always already desperate to admit is beyond our grasp. Peace. The gray scroll, unrolling its blank message: Invitation, recess.
Loops are undetectable when cut right, and can go on and on undetected into a background color-band of noise. So: ambient. Sounds become space. If ambient music is definitionally about spacemaking, about surroundings, then ballroom music is a weird generic conduit. Instead of generating an ambiguous listening fold, James Leyland Kirby’s Caretaker curates a specific time and place, the ballroom (specifically the haunted Gold Room). The memories the music jogs are hardly of this time, are fantasy, are irrelevant, are still. They open a listening window into the trace of mortality, of endings, bound to happen everywhere. With the world ending all around, The Caretaker is stuck. Everywhere at the end of time sounds how it could’ve five years ago: its sources are ancient, its associations are ancient (except for the self-referential nearness to An empty bliss).
A loop like any of those here is an illusion. It promises continuity, repetition as sameness, a sort of dependable and assured presence. But things fall apart, tastes grow accustomed to the event of releases and reissues, the body deteriorates, memory becomes fixed and unfixed. The loop is a live anachronism. Relish in the splendor of “Childishly fresh eyes” alongside the unsteady piano of “Slightly bewildered.” Luxuriate in “My heart will stop in joy” and its climactic, melodramatic swells. The past 30 minutes rolled into one last fanfare for the wandering heart. Unlike so many things, the song does not come to a stop, but to an end. And all you are going to want to do is get back there.