”As we near the end, Stage 5 sees our protagonist enter a near-permanent state of confusion and horror.”
Stage 5: slits of light are occasionally glimpsed, manifesting behind a set of blank eyes, but these glimpses of freedom are now enveloped by perpetual fog. The diseased mind is clouded by irregular patterns of thought as snippets of old music return from the grave. Unresponsive synapses and misfiring connections eat away at the mind, filling large rooms of nothing like the black Great Hall from House of Leaves. These symptoms are impossible to ignore as all order breaks down.
This is emptiness, and this is confusion, falling down an endless flight of stairs ala Arbogast, the detective from Psycho, who met his end at the hands of Norman Bates. Equally shot in black-and-white are the 78’s of ye-olden-days, which sit uneasily in the crackling haze, jutting in and out of the mind, lost in a swamp of thought and un-thought, and the perfume of another era isn’t lessened by the blunted needle on the record player. The big band plays on and on and on, but it’s disturbing in its gravel-like textures and undead tones; this shouldn’t be playing. This is not for you. It comes across as being something sick and vomit-inducing, such is the advanced level of the disease. This music would fit in at the Overlook Hotel.
This is the penultimate stage in The Caretaker’s Everywhere at the end of time, a project exploring dementia and the cruelty of the decay. And if the disease is not considered to be cruel, one can say that it is indeed certainly indifferent to the inner and outer suffering, and passive indifference is just as horrific. Dementia doesn’t spare anyone – it doesn’t care.
Pockets of old recordings emerge out of the short-circuitry, but they’re only around for a short time before the door closes. Speech is incomprehensible, its syllables cut short and discontinued, tossed around in the mix like rotting word salad. Memories and muffled melodies emanate from the other side of the door, but it never opens. Loved ones lose all of their recognisable features and personalities, becoming strangers with stranger shadows. This is disturbing music, and it’s worse than a fictitious horror film in its depiction – itsexperience – of real-life horror, and this puts the listener in the director’s chair, looking through the eyes of one suffering, and experiencing the deterioration first-hand. The patient, and not the doctor.
There’s more than a passing link between this release and the incessant migraine of Brexit, as both will wrap up in Spring 2019 and both deal with absolute disintegration. Nostalgia is wrapped up in a glowing but often untrue haze of thought that obstinately depicts a rose-tinted past. This illusion sails in from the past like HMS Victory, its crew singing off-key versions of Jerusalem and Rule Britannia, and these hymns, telling of national pride and The All-Conquering Empire, are sung with voices that are much older than the 78’s; a generation of ghosts.
In music and in nation, deterioration and incoming obliteration are apparent, an unstoppable, backwards plague dragging mind and country back to the Stone Age. The bright and too-bold colours of a Union Jack as viewed through the warped imagery of an old VHS tape, as well as footage from the Queen’s Coronation back in 1953, recall dead times and astonishing levels of regression. Kirby calls this ‘historic / collective amnesia’. The flags continue to wave even as the government commits national suicide.
Stage 5 represents some of Kirby’s most complex, experimental work. Aggressive deterioration before the coming blackout of Stage 6. With no way out, the ego’s dissolution is almost final, enveloped by lengthy periods of nothing.