| Tiny Gradiations of Loss - Caretaker
An Empty Bliss Beyond This World sounds like a collection of edits of prewar parlor-room music because that’s what it is. “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.”
Kirby is an artist whose concepts are sometimes more fun to engage with than his music. As V/Vm— a project he started in the early 1990s— he made grotesque edits of soft-pop songs and released an entire 7” of the sounds of pigs feeding. His albums as the Caretaker have been comparatively more subdued, tending toward ambient music made from preexisting recordings.
Bliss 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.