James Kirby's discography as The Caretaker is essentially variations on a theme, but you never quite know what you're going to get out of him. It might be dusty haunted ballrooms on Stairway to the Stars, or the stuff of faded, eaten postcards like last year's An Empty Bliss Beyond This Year. Usually, however, it's going to be some kind of heavily-manipulated, old-world source material. Patience (After Sebald) is the prolific Kirby's first Caretaker work of 2012, and though it functions as a soundtrack to Grant Gee's film of the same name—a "long walk through East Anglia"—it's definitely a Caretaker record both in name and execution.
This time around, Kirby has chosen recordings of Franz Schubert works circa 1927 and repurposed them via his usual mix of gentle processing and decay, but here the lines are blurred more than ever between artifacts of age and purposeful manipulation. The omnipresent sound on Patience (After Sebald) is hiss, but it's not quite regular old vinyl crackle (not always, anyway), but rather a sublimated set of semi-translucent tones that at once feel completely obscuring yet oddly revealing, the aural equivalent of staring through a narrow tube. The dominance of the hiss varies track to track: on "Isolated Lights in the Abyss of Ignorance," it's intrusive and noisy but still leaves room for the ominous piano, but on "Approaching the Outer Limits of Our Solar System" it's a blinding haze of static and artificial tinnitus. Indeed, it's hard to tell how much of this is inherent in the source material itself and how much is added by Kirby—or how. Dust on the vinyl? Manufactured imperfections? Or just the ravages of age? It's the fact that questions of these feel so pertinent—or even pop up—that prove the inexplicable wizardry of both Kirby's curation and recording techniques.
Patience is one of Kirby's most consistent and stylistically severe albums in recent memory, mostly solo piano with the occasional vocal thrown in. The album begins with a stirring overture in "Everything Is on the Point of Decline," the closest it comes to clarity and its most complete, definitive melody: it sets a regal tone that never quite lets up, though the album dips into darkness halfway through with the creeping unease of "The Homesickness That Was Corroding Her Soul." The times when the vocal comes in are the album's most unsettling: slowed down to cough syrup extremes, closer "Now the Night Is Over and the Dawn Is About to Break" features spectral voices that jet across the horizon like ghostly figures, a simple device (slowdown) somehow exploited anew for effects that feel alien and breathtakingly impressive.
Tracklist: The Caretaker - Patience (After Sebald)A1 Everything Is On The Point Of Decline
A2 As If One Were Sinking Into Sand
A3 Approaching The Outer Limits Of Our Solar System
A4 When The Dog Days Were Drawing To An End
A5 A Last Glimpse Of The Land Being Lost Forever
A6 The Homesickness That Was Corroding Her Soul
B1 I Have Become Almost Invisible, To Some Extent Like A Dead Man
B2 In The Deep And Dark Hours Of The Night
B3 No One Knows What Shadowy Memories Haunt Them To This Day
B4 Increasingly Absorbed In His Own World
B5 Isolated Lights On The Abyss Of Ignorance
B6 Now The Night Is Over And The Dawn Is About To Break
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