Leyland Kirby Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was

[History Always Favours the Winners; 2009]

Styles: ambient, drone, hauntology
Others: William Basinski, Mordant Music, Brian Eno, Harold Budd

Last time we heard from Leyland Kirby (V/Vm, The Stranger, The Caretaker), he gave us Persistent Repetition of Phrases, one of 2008’s most gorgeous yet underrated albums. On it, Kirby mined a vein of hauntological music where old ballroom dance albums were dissected and manipulated to the point of being unrecognizable, leaving only vague hints of melodies and rhythms. It was an immensely impressive release, one that I feel has only grown to become one of this decade’s most essential avant-garde recordings. But while that album is perhaps the pinnacle of Kirby’s work under any of his guises, the triple album Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was is indeed an awe-inspiring statement itself.

Because Kirby’s previous work often rely on appropriation and deconstruction, it may be surprising to know that this album — spread across three CDs or six LPs — is entirely of his own making. The title, according to the press release, alludes to a once-promised yet undelivered future cast aside in favor of harnessing intellect and technology for the furtherance of social networking and internet memes. Each album is given its own title — When We Parted My Heart Wanted To Die, Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was, and Memories Live Longer Than Dreams — but they operate stylistically under a single banner, indicating perhaps that the work was meant to be absorbed holistically and not in the piecemeal fashion one would expect from the pace of a postmodern future.

While the artwork suggests a very serene set of compositions, the music itself gives off a distressed, otherworldly sadness. At times, it recalls Ennio Morricone’s film music, such as during the barely-there whistling of “I’ve Hummed This Tune To All The Girls I’ve Known.” Elsewhere, waves of static crumble in a manner not unlike William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops. Despite these reference points, the majority of the music is most aesthetically in line with Kirby’s own output, proving that he did more than just sample and twiddle knobs on previous works. It provides proof positive that, whether or not he’s entirely responsible for the sounds within, Kirby fully injects himself into his music’s sonic DNA.

Some might be quick to dismiss three albums’ worth of music that could be generally described as ambient, but doing so would demonstrate a disregard for Kirby’s intent, which is political in nature. Every element here seems to underscore the dissonance that might result in a future of increasing density and speed. The album itself was released on his own self-financed label, History Always Favours the Winners, which proudly boasts “principles over profits.” Indeed, this is certainly not for everyone. Kirby’s own [blogging→http://haftw.wordpress.com/] about criticism suggest that, whether critical response is positive or negative, he’s unsure that anyone is actually listening. It reminded me of a quote I once read that “those who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring to everyday reality have a corpse in their mouth.” Whether or not this album is for you, I have been profoundly affected.

I. When We Parted My Heart Wanted To Die:

1. when we parted my heart wanted to die (friedrichschain memory)

2. the sound of music vanishing

3. the beauty of the impending tragedy of my existence

4. and as I sat beside you I felt the great sadness that day

5. tonight is the last night of the world

6. to the place between the twilight and the dawn

II. Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was:

1. when did our dreams and futures drift so far apart?

2. not even nostalgia is as good as it used to be

3. sadly, the future is no longer what it was

4. stay light, there is a rainbow coming

5. and nothing comes between the sadness and the scream

6. I’ve hummed this tune to all the girls I’ve known

7. not as she is not but as she appears in my dreams

III. Memories Live Longer Than Dreams:

1. memories live longer than dreams

2. don’t sleep I am not what I seem, I’m a very quiet storm

3. a longing to be absorbed for a while into a different and beautiful world

4. days in the wilderness

5. stralauer peninsula

6. we all won that day, sunshine

7. and at dawn armed with glowing patience, we will enter the cities of glory

8. (stripped)


Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

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