2011: Albums

Before we say goodbye, we thought we'd bring you our collective favorite albums of 2011.


Ash Borer: Ash Borer [Pesanta Urfolk]

MP3: Ash Borer: "Rest, You Are The Lightning"

Chillwave. It's been shoved down our throats over the past couple of years due to its ease of creation and distribution (thank you Ableton Live soft synths and plug-ins; thank you Soundcloud and the blogs that embed you!!), and a lot of it fucking sucks. This year saw some lazy remixes and underwhelming sophomore releases from the first batch of the genre's icons, and the honeymoon phase ended. Disappointment sets in as the blogosphere continues to herald "the next big thing" and humors publicists' requests for coverage-- maybe for the sake of traffic, maybe for the lack of a better voice. You feel a craving for something visceral. Something different.

Ash Borer enters the scene with an undeniably strong album that doesn't asked to be loved, appreciated, or even known at a time where being an artist seems to require having at least three social media outlets. The sheer weight of this headbanging LP is staggering, and its tension-building ambient moments are just as captivating as the chaotic ones. You don't have to be a diehard black metal fan to feel the impact of their bludgeoning drums, soaring guitars, and anguished screams; Ash Borer's raw power translates to any audience. Epic. --Ric Leichtung


Blues Control & Laraaji: FRKWYS Vol. 8 [RVNG Intl.]

MP3: Blues Control & Laraaji: "Awakening Day"

There've been a bunch of all-star collaborations this year-- Kanye and Jay-Z, James Blake and Bon Iver, Flaming Lips and Lightning Bolt-- that've doubled as a stroke of marketing genius and a fan's wet dream come true. There have also been a few lesser known meetings-of-the-mind orchestrated by RVNG Intl.-- Julianna Barwick and DNA founder Ikue Mori, Emeralds and soundtrack man Alan Howarth, the staggering five-way between Borden, Ferraro, Godin, Halo, and Lopatin-- that've been truly stunning. But the synergy between Blues Control and new age zitherist Laraaji trumps them all. Laraaji's been playing music for more than 30 years and is a seasoned improviser, taking on the role of the trio's leader and lifting the noise duo’s psychedelic scuzz to celestial heights. Few collaborations have tapped into something as special as this one. --Ric Leichtung


The Caretaker: An Empty Bliss Beyond This World [Self-Released]

MP3: The Caretaker: "Tiny Gradiations of Loss"

It was a busy year for Leyland Kirby and his peripatetic musical endeavors. Under his given name, Kirby released the beautifully meditative Eager to Tear Apart The Stars before delving into three volumes of electronic manipulations in the Intrigue & Stuff series. His release as The Caretaker, An Empty Bliss Beyond This World, landed the softest but burnt the brightest. Using a collection of run-down ballroom jazz 78s as his basic source material, Kirby continued his thematic study into the mind's inevitable fissures, the disconnects that frustrate the desire to cling to a perfect, complete memory.

Kirby's masterful manipulation and distortion of the 78s was so effective that they no longer seemed to belong to the past, or to the present.. An Empty Bliss resides in a kind of temporal limbo, reminding us that the opaque memories of a life -- what is salvaged and what is lost -- follow a most mysterious, inaccessible logic. It was a moment of exquisite calm, humility, and fragility amid the mad dash to omnipotence that is information super highway; it told us that no matter how imperfect, what we are left with is all that we have, and must be cherished. --Daniel Gottlieb


Death Grips: Exmilitary [Self-Released]

MP3: Death Grips: "Beware"

Death Grips are a mess, an anomaly that coheres through a set of intertwining delusional threads, mostly relating to personal obsessions and their limits.  As much the phrase "practice makes perfect" proves true for beatsmith Zach Hill, MC Ride does the same in his mantras, using repetition as a coping mechanism for his abyss. There's a reason a Charles Manson sample opens this album: he's taken delusion into another universe. Ride really believes he's the king. Tell yourself anything enough times and you're Ringo Starr, guy.

Still, by any standards, Exmilitary, has had little material success; the album was free. Exmilitary inverts tried gangster-rap narratives into critiques of consumerism, violence, and self-obsession that both frighten and inspire. It's an outré manifesto that one wants to simultaneously hold at a distance and make one’s own. Though maybe not referential enough to be considered conscious hip-hop, this is political by default-- at the fringe of all things we find alluring but perilous. --Dale W. Eisinger

Future Shuttle: Water's Edge [Intercoastal Artists / Holy Mountain]

MP3: Future Shuttle: "Fog Spelunk"

When Future Shuttle released their debut EP Water’s Edge in late August, they established themselves as an outfit that makes nu age music for body and spirit alike. Their blend of synth, flute, samplers, and beats elegantly intertwines the cosmic and the earthly. Through sounds that evoke flowing streams, bird and dolphin calls, and the vibrations of ancient rock formations, Jessa Farkas’ voice resonates with striking humanity. It is as commanding as it is sorrowful, bringing to mind both the mortal condition and our desire and power to transcend it. In “Rain Source,” Farkas repeats the mantra, "I became everything that I’ve ever encountered," as the relationship between humans and each element of their environment is emphasized. Similarly, as “spacey” as Future Shuttle’s music is, every component is crystal-clear, a voice within its vast landscape. --Samantha Cornwell


Holy Other: With U [Tri-Angle]

MP3: Holy Other: "Touch"

Due to the ghostly vibes and his Tri Angle roster spot, Holy Other's work is mistakenly cast as something gothic, dark, or due to be canonized in wing-ding letters in some infinitely vacuous witch house manifesto. In reality, this past year found the veiled Manchester producer offering something far different from those suspected shock and horror tropes: the romantic hybrid house of With U. Holy Other's deep, disembodied vocals echo like distant memories as screwed orchestral swells and choral bass moans swallow them up. The atmosphere of yearning is palpable, whether for past love or new direction; the subdued lust of a simultaneously ravenous but tender one night stand looms over the hungry pleas of With U, especially in the meter- and momentum-shifting standout, "Touch." Holy Other's debut is a triumphant melding of R&B's emotion, bass culture's sensuality, and house's heartbeat, and the result is one of the year's most intimate albums. --Matt Sullivan


Iceage: New Brigade [Escho]

MP3: Iceage: "New Brigade"

It's been a hell of a year for Iceage. Their first full-length dropped in their native country of Denmark in January. By June, they had gotten What's Your Rupture on board for a US release, toured with Fucked up, captured the attention of an Odd Future-obsess press (remember them?), and basically taken the underground music world by storm-- all pretty much by accident. They put out one of the most talked-about records of this year, and although their high school status, their notoriously bloody shows, and the controversy surrounding the Nazi doodles surely played their parts, the album had the kind of energy that hadn't been heard in years. Iceage is the type of band that sparks obsession. They put their hometown of Copenhagen on the music map by coining a movement and rekindled faith in a genre that had been stagnating for a few years. Mostly, they brought punk back into our minds, at least for a little while. --Ric Leichtung


John Maus: We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves [Ribbon]

MP3: John Maus: "Believer"

If 2010 was the year when the music elite deemed Ariel Pink worthy of their ever-loving embrace, then 2011 was the year when they extended a tender hand to his CalArts classmate and lo-fi co-"discoverer" John Maus. However, as a series of revealing interviews following the release of his remarkable We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves made clear, Maus’ relationship with industry success was a complex and acrimonious one. Pitiless Censors was brimming with concepts and conjectures about modern political inertia, the sclerosis of advanced global capitalism, and the challenges they pose to the individual subject.

The album balanced and combined these influences accordingly: it's cerebral and conceptually driven, but also a revealing portrait of John’s personal and artistic struggle to break through these restrictive forces. Pitiless Censors thus gave us an image of Maus inhabiting a role not dissimilar to the lighthouse that appears on his album art: luminary but mysterious, vulnerable yet resolute, anxious to illuminate a place that lies just outside what it can reach. "This is where a human being finds himself"-- using the musical tools of the past, feeling ambivalent about the present, and longing for the possibilities of the future. In 2011, we welcomed back John Maus, the Believer. --Daniel Gottlieb


Julia Holter: Tragedy [Leaving]

MP3: Julia Holter: "Goddess Eyes"

Equal parts electronic pop and minimalist chamber music, Julia Holter’s Hippolytus-inspired debut puts both conservatory kids and bedroom producers to shame. Not too many artists manage to square the large and sprawling with the focused and minutely detailed, but this Los Angeles composer will channel just as much rigor into an extended drone as she will a loaded pause. Rather than belabor the plot details of Euripedes’ tormented love story, she abstracts it into a feeling of hovering doom.

The atmosphere is thick on Tragedy. Husky strings, white noise, harpsichords, fog horns, and crackling opera LPs cohere with mounting pressure, only to plateau until we forget that they are supposed to set the scene for a narrative event: a bit of dialogue or monologue set to words, such as in “The Falling Age” and “Celebration,” where her voice evokes Enya auditioning for a Madrigal choir, or single “Goddess Eyes,” where it’s clipped, vocoded, and maybe a little cold. Tragedy is the kind of record that makes you feel as though you’ve traveled far by the end-- through time, though space, though multiple musical languages and sounds that you never thought of as musical to begin with. Still, from start to curtain call, you can feel the clock ticking at every moment. --Emilie Friedlander


Julian Lynch: Terra [Underwater Peoples]

MP3: Julian Lynch: "Terra"

As life on Earth tends to move in circles, so has much of the music of 2011. Where many of this year’s releases are grounded in computer-driven loops and synth-based repetition, Julian Lynch’s Terra cycles through nylon, four-stringed guitar, meditative jazz clarinet, and hushed, tabla percussion. The Madison, Wisconsin-based ethnomusicologist refines the wide panorama of influences that was already present on his past releases, reaching into the past with smokey, prohibition-era falsetto croons and ‘50s music box piano symphonies while keeping it “modern” with his proggy guitar-synth. His third studio effort sounds more refined, more concise, and more three-dimensional than anything we've heard from him before. In another instance of coming full circle, Terra marks his return to Underwater Peoples, the home of his first non-CDr release, a split 7” with childhood friend Ducktails.. --Mary Katherine Youngblood


Jürgen Müller: Science of the Sea [Foxy Digitalis]

MP3: Jürgen Müller: "Sea Green"

In 1979, German oceanographer Jürgen Müller built a music studio on his houseboat off the North Sea and slowly recorded an album inspired by the natural wonders that surrounded him. There were about 100 copies made, most of which were given away to his peers in the oceanic field; by some bizarre stroke of chance, one of them ended up in the hands of Brad Rose at Foxy Digitalis, who reportedly restored the album. The story is a library music collector's dream, and is unbelievable from the get-go, but Science's sophisticated palette is probably the most conclusive piece of evidence we have that Jürgen Müller and his project are the stuff of myth. Most exotica albums coming from "Jurgen's" time were awfully shallow listens, the cute wordplay and kitsch concepts constituting the core of their appeal. Science draws from the shimmering textures of the late, great Mort Garson and evokes the minimalist side of Raymond Scott. It's too damn good to be true. Its story is an integral part of the album, but its validity as a work of art doesn't hinge on fact-- it's in the beauty of the music, and the ideas lurking in its great depths that make this album more than a myth. --Ric Leichtung


Laurel Halo: Hour Logic [Hippos In Tanks]

MP3: Laurel Halo: "Aquifer"
One night at CMJ this year, I pushed forward to the front row of 285 Kent's attendees to catch Laurel Halo. As I walked away from the stage, the buzz in my headspace was killed with another concert-goer's groan-inducing synopsis: "Wow, she really killed it… for a girl." The blatant sexism of the analysis was a little stunning, but it seemed to fit in oddly well with a long line of bizarre preconceptions about this year's divisive ode to time-leaping-- and her best work yet-- Hour Logic. Halo's EP is the soundtrack to an imaginary silent sci-fi film where a cultural shift in information retrieval and consumption leaves significant effects on our brains' memory capacity and habits. It's a contemporary thesis on the possible aftermath of inhabiting a world like Far Side Virtual's for too long, drawn from futuristic bouts with electronic classics. Ultimately, that cerebral take is best left for the forum; Hour Logic's constant forward momentum is designed to be felt. The finer details of the painstakingly orchestrated domes and arcs of this symphony can be almost overwhelming, but the Detroit EMF veteran hasn't taken a left turn-- she's reached further for the future. --Matt Sullivan


Liturgy: Aesthethica [Thrill Jockey]

There’s no doubt that Brooklyn black metal outfit Liturgy pissed a lot of purists off this year when Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, their philosophizing Columbia grad of a frontman, published his infamous “Transcendental Black Metal” essay on the Internet. It renamed the “blast beat” the “burst beat,” boasted several black-and-white diagrams, and combined a band manifesto of sorts with a vision of the genre moving toward its ideal culmination in "the self-overcoming of Hyperborean black metal." (The implication being, of course, that Liturgy would be the band doing all the overcoming). At the end of the day, Altered Zones can only admire Hunt-Hendrix’s willingness to think deeply about what his own aesthetic choices mean, and will remember 2011 partly as the year when Aesthetica took the pummeling 16th notes, ecstatic death cries, and shifting guitar tremolos of black metal and showed us non-specialists just how powerful that language can be. It was also the year that the band lost perhaps its strongest music asset in virtuoso drummer and Guardian Alien mastermind Greg Fox; whatever you’d prefer to call his athletic and idiosyncratic pattering, it combined the thrill of total destruction with the joy of being alive. --Emilie Friedlander


Oneohtrix Point Never: Replica [Software]

MP3: Oneohtrix Point Never: "Replica"

For those of you keeping score at home, this is Dan Lopatin’s third appearance on an Altered Zones year-end best album list, the first two being for Games’ That We Can Play and Oneohtrix Point Never’s Returnal last year. November’s Replica reconfirmed Lopatin’s status as an ingenious samplist whose complex process doesn’t prevent him from creating music that’s both erudite and somehow nearly as accessible as the TV commercials that provided his source material. The songs shirk narrative and explicit meaning, opting instead for contrapuntal juxtapositions and textured sound collages. Lopatin's magnum opus. --Luke Carrell


Peaking Lights: 936 [Not Not Fun]

MP3: Peaking Lights: "Tiger Eyes (Laid Back)"

Peaking Lights had several key elements of their sound place for their 2009 album, Imaginary Falcons, but the duo’s ability to weave noise-pop together with a humid strain of dub lay buried under a heavy dusting of drone and hiss. The project had plenty of promise, but it needed to be coaxed out into the setting sun. 936, this year’s subtly addictive gem of an album, has been buffed to a faded neon sheen, run through the heaviest dubplates, and pumped through a V.F.W. hall public address system straight into our hearts. Scotch Taped beats snake through oil-slicked puddles of bass that feel perfectly primed to rumble the speakers of the average ‘78 Escort. Indra Dunis’ honeyed coo seems to languish forever in a pool of hushed purple light while Aaron Coyes’ homemade synths billow into every available audible nook left behind. In short, 936 is a sweaty beast of a record. --Andy French


Pete Swanson: Man With Potential [Type]

MP3: Pete Swanson: "Misery Beat"

I was wrong when I said the NYPD should play this on LRAD -- it belongs to Occupy. I mean, can you imagine the first hook, a full four minutes in, dropping as Zuccotti Park or Frank Ogawa Plaza faced eviction? Though Pete Seeger's endorsement was nice, did we expect much energy or inspiration from a 92-year-old, withering "This Little Light"? If the opener of Pete Swanson's Man With Potential, "Misery Beat," was meant for any catharsis at all, there's plenty of miserable subject matter to mine nowadays. Sure, it's named for the singular, but this entire release carries the imminent movement of massive crowds, exemplifying the power and potential of wordlessness. Perhaps the title points more to Swanson's autonomy, as he departed from the much-loved Yellow Swans duo three years ago.

Throughout this edict for Type Records, Swanson ping-pongs pointed loops through fields of scuzz, his deliberate modulation stretching each interval to its limit as agressive, head-bobbing beats sneak in. And while you can almost read the formula adhered to, no two tracks carry identical temperament or momentum. Man With Potential is thoughtful on a long-term scale, speaking to anyone with a pulse and a modicum of collective sense. --Dale W. Eisinger --Dale W. Eisinger


Prince Rama: Trust Now [Paw Tracks]

MP3: Prince Rama: "Rest In Peace"

I think it's no secret that times are pretty tough for everyone nowadays, and Taraka and Nimai Larson of Prince Rama know this as well as anyone. Trust Now is their first album since founding member Michael Collins left the group and it slimmed to a duo. It's an airing of grievances, a mourning period, but also a survivor's statement of perseverance. We find a new Rama, re-energized and dressed for the battle arena. Shadow Temple's sophisticated drumming, swarming synths, and banshee-strength wails are more potent than ever on "Rest In Peace" and "Summer of Love," although the celestial prog of "Incarnation" and "Golden Silence" alludes to an age of enlightening surrender, a place where moments in time seem to lose their linearity. Trust Now is an important message of faith in an era where hope is dwindling and little seems trustworthy. --Matt Sullivan


Pure X: Pleasure [Acéphale]

MP3: Pure X: "Twisted Mirror"

Calling Pure X’s Pleasure a summer album wouldn’t be wrong. Lord knows it had a strong run as the soundtrack of choice for a host of sweaty activities over the course of the season, but as the album made so many return trips to headphones, ear canals and turntables, a new character emerged in the textures of those carefully interpreted songs: a tinge of darkness, equally honest and murky, that never really takes shape, but might be a bit sticky. Fellow Austinite Malcolm Elijah’s vids for "Surface" and "Easy" and the glamour shot of bondage cuffs on the album art display this theme, but avoid devolving into camp menace. This is holistic music, best enjoyed live and loud-- exactly like it was recorded. --Luke Carrell


Run DMT: Dreams [Culture Dealer]

MP3: Run DMT: "Dreaming"

Mike Collins has been an ambassador to all sounds weird and wonderful for a couple years, making the Run DMT moniker a mascot for the type of abstracted sound collages that have characterized the best of Baltimore's underground. Dreams is a series of fleeting, intergalactic visits that channel the spaced-out pondering of Bong Voyage, the classic '60s pop bounce of his Spruce Bringsteen split 7", and the spiritual awakenings of a deemster-fueled blast-off. Considering that it was recorded a few years ago, there's something of an old (but not that old) school charm to Dreams, recalling the excitement of exploring the vast unknown of the late aughts' blogosphere --the scene that Collins cut his teeth on-- for the very first time again. I am reminded of a time when I first heard Run, discovered Altered Zones, and ran away to Brooklyn to fashion dreams into reality. Needless to say, it's inspiring to hear Collins do the same with this labor of love, which almost didn't see the light of day. --Matt Sullivan


Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972 [Kranky]

MP3: Tim Hecker: "Hatred of Music I"

From Tim Hecker’s interest in the sonic refuse of the digital age emerged one of the most enduring albums of 2011. "I became obsessed with digital garbage, like when the Kazakstan government cracks down on piracy and there's pictures of 10 million DVDs and CDRs being pushed by bulldozers." From the portmanteau of the record to the image of the piano drop to track names like “Studio Suicide” and “Analog Paralysis, 1978," Ravedeath, 1972 was consumed with the timelessness and transience of sound. Its twelve elegiac pieces shifted from moments of action to periods of stasis. Passages of ambient purity tussled with lurching movements of hazy noise; synthesisers from the studio dialogue with organ sub-bass recorded in an Icelandic church. It was a journey that slowed down time to the point of stopping it altogether. --Daniel Gottlieb

James Leyland Kirby Preps New LP

I'm pretty positive James Leyland Kirby's work ethic knows no bounds. In the wake of his Intrigue & Stuff vinyl series and his recently Zoned In LP as The Caretaker, An Empty Bliss Beyond This World, Kirby is dropping a new album on October 11th, Eager To Tear Apart The Stars on his History Always Favours The Winners imprint . Drawing inspiration from the ambient works of Roedelius and Harold Budd, Eager crafts landscapes of outer space: lonely and uninhabitable, but its magnitude sadly beautiful.

Until that drops, check out Nic Brown's music video for The Caretaker's "I Feel As If I Might Be Vanishing." Barely distinguishable images are weaved into muted waves of color; figures linger, remaining vague, seeming as though they could disappear at any second. The trademark Video Marsh aesthetic brings Kirby's vision of Alzheimer's-affected memory recollection to life. --Matt Sullivan, Altered Zones

Tags: james leyland kirby, the caretaker, news, video

Posted by alteredzones on 09/15/2011 at 2:22 p.m..

The Caretaker Shares Unreleased Tracks

The recently profiled Leyland Kirby, aka The Caretaker, has shared two previously unreleased tracks from the zoned in An Empty Bliss Beyond This World. The tracks, "Fleeting Dreams" and "The Story Is Lost," feature The Caretaker's signature dreamy yet menacing static sense of movement, alluding to warped and warbled sounds weathered from the past, churned from a dilapidated gramophone. --Jasmine Zhu, Altered Zones

MP3: The Caretaker: "Fleeting Dreams"

MP3: The Caretaker: "The Story Is Lost"

An Empty Bliss Beyond This World is out now on Kirby's own History Always Favours The Winners imprint, and is available from Forced Exposure

Tags: the caretaker, james leyland kirby, audio

Posted by alteredzones on 08/17/2011 at 10 a.m..

Artist Profile: The Caretaker

[Photo by Andres Bigum]

By Michael C. Powell

MP3: The Caretaker: "Tiny Gradiations of Loss"

MP3: The Caretaker: "The Great Hidden Sea of the Unconscious"

Under The Caretaker moniker, Berlin-based British sound artist Leyland Kirby has taken on the heady subject of memory and neurological illness (no pun intended). His 2005 effort Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia-- originally released as a downloadable collection of 72 free MP3s-- was a journey into the unimaginable confusion of short-term memory disintegration. While Kirby says his primary inspiration was the ballroom scene in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, his premise more closely parallels modern cult psychological thrillers like Christopher Nolan's Memento. On his latest release, the recently Zoned In An Empty Bliss Beyond This World, Kirby invites us into the mind of someone struggling to recall images from their past--- aural ones, incarnated in samples and shards of old jazz 78s. An Empty Bliss... is a powerful piece of music that demands full attention-- not an ambient record for background play.

Kirby and I spoke over the phone and engaged in some light, ice-breaking small-talk on our perceptions of elapsed time, the chaos of the modern world, and the subjective nature of reality-- you know, the usual. He also revealed that he's written a score for a new film by Grant Gee, director of the claustrophobic Radiohead documentary Meeting People Is Easy.

AZ: As The Caretaker, you explore the subject of memory and its deterioration through age or disease. How did you become so intrigued by the subject?

James: I guess it's how you look back at things when you're older, and everything has changed. Our memories from when we were younger all become something different. That's what I try to capture. The whole project came about by watching the breakdown of Jack Torrance in The Shining. That was the big influence in the beginning, but you can't do the same release over and over again, so I've looked at different ways to carry on this concept while using old records to represent memory.

Continue Reading

Tags: the caretaker, features, artist profiles

Posted by thedecibeltolls on 08/10/2011 at noon.

Leyland Kirby: "Speeded Up Slow Motion"

James Leyland Kirby just released Intrigue & Stuff Vol. 2, the second of his four-volume 12" series as Leyland Kirby. The swirling, stargazing wall of sound that is "Speeded Up Slow Motion" (available for stream over at Boy Attractions) is a noticeable departure from the restrained, nostalgic, crackling vinyl that Kirby explored in his recently zoned in album as The Caretaker. However, his limitless imagination prevails (big surprise) and we're left with no option but to don a spacesuit and blast off with him. For more I&S splendor, check out this unofficial video for "Ruined Visions" from Vol. 1. --Matt Sullivan, Altered Zones




Kirby's imprint, History Always Favours the Winners, does not sell his albums directly, but you can pick all current and future volumes of Intrigue & Stuff from Boomkat and other Kirby-supported shops

--Previously:

MP3: Leyland Kirby: "Ruined Visions"

MP3: The Caretaker: "Tiny Gradiations of Loss"

Tags: leyland kirby, the caretaker, audio, video

Posted by alteredzones on 07/08/2011 at 4:20 p.m..

Zoned In: The Caretaker: An Empty Bliss Beyond This World

By Andy French

Over the past fifteen years, Berlin-based British composer James Leyland Kirby has devoted more time to the relationship between music and memory than most musicians ever will. His 2008 album, Persistent Repetition Of Phrases, uses looped, glitched and degraded electronics as a metaphor for degenerative diseases of the mind. "Lacunar Amnesia," "Von Restorff Effect," and the album's title track played on the notion of the brain being trapped inside a moment in the past, itself foggier and foggier with each recollection. Kirby's music fused grainy ballroom ambience with a softly deteriorating sense of time, history, and self.

With An Empty Bliss Beyond This World, his second full-length foray as The Caretaker, Kirby tackles amnesia, building on his previous work with the subject in 2005's Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia. This time around, Kirby contemplates the ability of Alzheimer’s patients to recollect passages of music from their past and connect them to specific people and places. Sourced from Kirby’s massive collection of '78s, the pieces return him to the faded arena of ballroom jazz, which he further corrodes with subtle loops and haunted static. Kirby's chosen subject matter surfaces most explicitly in song titles like "I Feel As If I Might Be Vanishing," "Moments of Sufficient Lucidity," and "Tiny Gradiations Of Loss." A few titles even reoccur in the span of the album, but with the accompanying audio in varying degrees of decay.

These samples range from seemingly complete songs, lifted from the past with crisp recollection, to pieces that feel clouded and frustratingly incomplete. As time and the album wear on, the level of clarity waxes and wanes; graininess evolves into holes and gaps as passages replay, eroded by wear, age, and, metaphorically, by disease. It's as though the album is trying to recall the originals, but is failing. For anyone who’s witnessed the frustrating effects of Alzheimer's in real life, it's hard not to be touched by Kirby's drive to understand the emotions that accompany the deterioration of the brain-- not only the part of the patient, but also that of the observer. The result is one of the most devastatingly tender electronic albums of the year.

The Caretaker: An Empty Bliss Beyond This World

An Empty Bliss Beyond This World is out now on Kirby's own History Always Favours The Winners imprint, and is available on vinyl via Forced Exposure, or via Boomkat in CD, MP3, and FLAC formats. Starting June 21st, Forced Exposure will be selling the CD as well

Tags: zoned in, audio, the caretaker

Posted by alteredzones on 06/14/2011 at noon.

Charles Griffin Gibson sent us his music video for a new song from James Leyland Kirby's latest offering as The Caretaker, in which various cutscenes of owls are sequenced beneath another transluscent, ethereal owl. The song's three-chord piano sample sounds like something taken straight from Debussy or Satie as flickering hiss cutting in and out while drifing from left to right in your headphones. Sublime. --Ric Leichtung, Altered Zones

You can grab The Caretaker's latest, An Empty Bliss Beyond This World, from Forced Exposure or Boomkat, courtesy of Kirby's own label, History Always Favours The Winners

--Previously

MP3: The Caretaker: "Tiny Gradiations of Loss"

Tags: james leyland kirby, the caretaker, audio, video

Posted by alteredzones on 06/06/2011 at 4:11 p.m..

The Caretaker: "Tiny Gradiations of Loss"

We warned you that Leyland James Kirby was a busy man. Now that his first EP under his given name is out of the gate, he returns after two years of silence to his Caretaker role. His An Empty Bliss Beyond This World album plays with the perception of memory-- more specifically, with the ability of Alzheimer's patients' to recall memories of songs from their past. Kirby sourced the record from a collection of 78s he's amassed over the years, and he's brought these floating snippets into soft focus, shuffled against the gears of time and age. There's a profound sadness in comparing the degradation of a sound source and the degradation of the mind's abilities to recall them. The album, aided by the deft mastering work of Dubplates & Mastering, weaves a potent mix of sound selection and social commentary that one would only expect from the hand of Kirby. The vinyl run on this is limited, but highly worth tracking down. One of the most crushingly beautiful releases of the year. --Andy French, Raven Sings The Blues

MP3: The Caretaker: "Tiny Gradiations of Loss"

Grab An Empty Bliss Beyond This World EP from Experimedia. Preview the album here

Tags: the caretaker, leyland james kirby, audio

Posted by ravensingstheblues on 06/02/2011 at 10 a.m..

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