Here and there, I've been receiving requests and reminders to check out this album from the Caretaker, An Empty Bliss Beyond This World. The main man behind this pseudonym is James Leyland Kirby, and this is his latest in a long string of releases he's been putting out since about 1999.
An album like this is easy to listen to, but tough to make sense of. Descriptions of this album around the net delve heavily into its Alzheimer’s disease- inspired concept. And while it's interesting to know what drives Kirby to create these sounds, I'm left wondering what real significance such a statement holds to me as a listener. After all, this is something I wouldn't even know unless I was told. There's definitely no mission statement announced in these tracks.
Another issue that comes to my mind as I'm listening to this is what the process of creating this album was. At my most cynical, I could probably be worked up into saying anybody can make music like this. I could be wrong, and I'm open to that, but it seems like Kirby is doing nothing more than taking clips of pre-war jazz 78s and looping them while adding reverb and occasionally altering the volume and panning. A lot of these songs meet pretty abrupt endings, too.
Some of the samples Kirby uses seem completely unaltered. If I didn't know any better, I'd say the ballroom jazz romp on "Libet's Delay" is completely unaltered outside of some added effects.
Still, no matter what the process is, there's an important question a fan of this album reminded me of: How does this music make me feel? When I get bogged down in the details of an album or song, it's easy to forget that.
I can't deny that this album definitely puts me somewhere. While listening to this thing, I imagine being in a large corridor with a high ceiling and white walls. There's a spiral staircase running up each side of the room, but I'm laying out on a fancy couch in the middle of the room. There's a long hallway leading out of the corridor, and at the end of the hallway, of course, is a room with a record player spinning the very stuff Kirby is sampling. It's a setting that's serene, relaxing; however, there's something eerie and lonely about it, too.
Maybe that's not the interpretation Kirby hoped for, but it is mine and it's the best way I can relate to what this album is doing sonically. No matter what the artist's intent was, I still think it's up to the listener to find what the music does or means to him or her personally. And since the entire LP is streaming above, why not try it?
If you're interested in a copy of this album, find how to grab a copy right here.