The Caretaker – Everywhere At The End Of Time (Stage 2)

A losing battle is raging deep within the mind’s decaying ballrooms; the wallpaper is peeling off, letting in shafts of eternal black light beyond. The chandeliers used to gleam, but they’re rusty things now, hanging with a dead weight from the ceiling. Something isn’t normal – it’s not the way it should be. Realisation dawns.

The music of Leyland Kirby, who you’ll know as The Caretaker (he’s always been the caretaker, don’t you know), is like an old tome, with every lifting of the page presenting a heavy gathering of hazy thoughts and long dead dreams. Once upon a time, these things were remembered with ease, the mind’s computing a well-polished and accessible filing system, but now, for some reason, they’re shrouded in the thick dust of a thousand settled memories, all bleeding into one another, distorting things, making everything else appear dim and hard to fathom.

In spite of the beginnings of an irreparable breakdown, the music is clothed in the comforting, all-encompassing world of the past. The music floats with grace in a loop outside of time, occupying a lonely and alienated place. People are dancing, but there’s a nightmarish quality to the sequence, because the hall is filled with those who have already walked into the light. Everywhere At The End Of Time – Stage 2 is the second (obviously) of six albums to be released over the next three years, cataloguing and detailing the effects of early-onset dementia. Each album deals with a stage, the deepening roots of the disease and the subsequent deterioration and loss of memory until it reaches a colourless state of black nothing.

This is the stage of realisation, of despair, deep grief and feelings of futility. The mind traps itself in its sickly sweet reminiscences of days gone by in order to escape a gradual dissolving of the present, but it’s like comforting a body with numb hands. Things are collapsing; an invasion has begun. Beloved sounds echo in caverns of weak sunshine, and sounds begin to spool out into the halls of eternity. The band plays on and on and on and on and on. Grey-haired strings and horns are engaged in flowing segments and unhealthy loops, less a stutter of slow recollection and more a flowering of an old memory – but this is deceptive, because the longer loops only deepen the rabbit hole, and every repetition signals a growing danger unbeknownst to the sufferer. Stronger spells of light occasionally shine through, but the sky is becoming grey and growing increasingly overcast, like England in June.

The short-term memory begins to fail, eroding away. For the music is still strangely beautiful, trance-like, even though the decay is real and already there, ghosting into the sound. The fragile horns still fill the air; those old tea room dances at four in the afternoon now end well after sunset. The 1920’s are here again, and so are the 1940’s – smiling faces of people we’ve known! They haven’t aged at all…how amazing! They dance beside us. It’s just like Heaven. The music is buried under an avalanche of dusty crackles and stale, salty pops; the recording is frail in its old age, the sound like a physical wrinkling of the music’s skin – the music doesn’t escape the natural process of ageing and decay. A quiet dusk is coming early. We as listeners experience this, too. We are directly experiencing the process, and that gives the music more of a heavy-hitting impact. The next stage will surely be a tearful goodbye. It will sadden and fade, turning from a cool blue to an obdurate black. For now, the record plays on.

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