In Rotation: ‘An Empty Bliss Beyond This World’ by the Caretaker
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A series in Sunday Calendar about what Times writers & contributors are listening to right now...
As intriguing a concept as it is an engaging listen, “An Empty Bliss Beyond This World” by the Caretaker, whose real name is Leyland James Kirby, sounds like it was crafted in the dungeon of a 14th century German castle — by a time-traveling Liberace. It’s an instrumental easy-listening record, kind of, except that Kirby has carefully and precisely re-crafted the recordings with aural texture to create something surreal, dark and confusing.
Kirby, a Berlin-based Brit, is best known for his V/Vm alter ego; in that guise he makes surreal, noisy cut-up voice pieces and mash-ups. There’s noise on “Empty Bliss” too, but it’s of a subtler variety, and arrives in the form of pops, crackles, subharmonic bass and hiss that layer the 15 pieces on the record with a kind of digital antiquity. The result is an eerie document, Kirby’s eighth project under the pseudonym, that feels like it’s from another dimension.
The titles are as evocative as the concept: “Bedded Deep in Long Term Memory” sounds like just that, if said memory were Bela Lugosi’s. “Pared Back to the Minimal” moves in its sonic space dizzyingly; a soft, repetitive piano melody lacquered with static circles from left to right channel as though there were a short in the wire.
Track No. 14, one of two different experiments called “An Empty Bliss Beyond This World,” features a recording of a cocktail-jazz big band with a muted trumpeter out front. The piece could be from 1947 — except that as the music pro-gresses, a deep, ethereal swath of texture gradually, insidiously sneaks in to transform the otherwise engaging melody into something deep and dark.
“An Empty Bliss Beyond This World”
(History Always Favors the Winners Records)
-- Randall Roberts