Friday, November 27, 2009

The Caretaker - "Persistent Repetition of Phrases" (LP Review)

"The Caretaker" is one of the many pseudonyms of James Leyland Kirby, who is perhaps slightly more well known as "V/Vm". The Caretaker project began in 1999 as an attempt to musically reproduce music from the haunted ballroom scene in The Shining. Although I get the reference now, the first thing it reminded me of was the opening scene in The Wall, with Vera Lynn singing "The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot". Both movies repurpose big band recordings from our collective nostalgia for a disturbing effect. I could speculate as to why this is true, but there is no denying the results. Band music, complete with the technological defects of pops and hisses and hazily reduced to sound like it is coming from the other room (or some other world), makes for spooky music. I could go on, but instead I'll quote from The Caretaker's site directly, in his own words:

Dusty and forgotten memories, echoes and vibrations from the past. Using as source, recordings from the 1920's and 1930's era of Ballroom music. Often painful and desolate memories, recalled and replayed from beyond the grave of our senses. In amongst this darkness lies the solace of a semi-recognisable melody or phrase, a beacon of light in this often dark and distant ocean of haunted recalled audio.

The Caretaker's 2008 LP "Persistent Repetition of Phrases" has been steadily climbing my iTunes playcount since Herbert turned me on to it a few months ago. And since you can't stay at the Overlook Hotel forever (!), this LP deals with the more real (and more disturbing) concepts of memory, speech, aging, (loss of) identity and Alzhiemer's. Like Elvis Costello's Veronica, slowly and gauzily retold without words.

Standout tracks: Given the nature of the LP, individual songs are hard to single out, but I'll go with: Lacunar Amnesia, Long Term (remote), Poor Enunciation, False Memory Syndrome.

(The rest of the LP -- and other Kirby songs -- are available on the V/vm YouTube Channel. It is worth checking out.)

Skip 'em tracks: none.

Final score: 10/10. Part of me thinks I'm being too generous and maybe it warrants only a 9/10. But on the other hand, I don't know how this LP could be better.

Bonus Links: Ballroom Music from The Shining (YouTube), The Ballroom Scene from The Shining (YouTube).

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