Everywhere at the end of time

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In March Leyland Kirby released the sixth and final stage of Everywhere at the end of time, the culmination of his 20 year The Caretaker project. Expanding on the earlier An empty bliss beyond this World, the work explores the fragility of memory, and deftly blurs the boundaries between music and expressionistic soundscape.

Taking as its starting point a collection of ’30s dance band 78s, the work uses increasingly extreme processing effects to gradually detach the music from its surroundings and break down any meaning. Starting out with the relatively untreated “It’s just a burning memory”, which uses the Ray Noble and his Orchestra song “Midnight, the Stars and You” as its basis, the music gradually deteriorates to fragments as tunes become less overtly familiar.

Subtle use of echo and reverb produces a distancing effect, that seems to detach the music from the present and situate it in some half-remembered, almost mythical, past. Tunes start multiple times as if we can’t quite remember any more than their first few bars. Other tunes intrude in a way that almost, but not quite, fits seamlessly, only to crop up again in their entirety in their own right.

The work can be viewed as two halves, with the first 3 stages representing the earlier parts of dementia, where some memories can still be recalled, given enough effort. Treatment of the tracks is subtle enough to still recognize the source material, even though they become increasingly distorted and feel more and more distant.

From stage 4 onwards, things take a darker turn. Stage 4 is described in the accompanying notes as “… where serenity and the ability to recall singular memories gives way to confusions and horror. It’s the beginning of an eventual process where all memories begin to become more fluid through entanglements, repetition and rupture”. We get glimpses of what might be a recognizable tune, maybe part of a piano riff we’ve heard before, but then it slips away again as we try to chase it down.

Stages 5 and 6 accentuate this even further as the tracks descend into layers of dark ambient drone interrupted occasionally by what might be notes, free from all association and meaning.

If you can, it is best to listen to the whole work in one sitting. Clocking in at somewhere around 6 and a half hours, this is quite the commitment, but the experience is well worth the effort of sustained attention to fully appreciate the complex interweaving of sounds Kirby uses to realise his themes.

For those who want some more, Kirby has also released some extra tracks as Everywhere, an empty bliss, available only as a download, and only until 16th June 2019.

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