The Caretaker is one of many creative avenues of prolific British electronic artist James Kirby, best known for his V/Vm project. Reportedly inspired by the haunted ballroom scene from “The Shining” film, The Caretaker flawlessly embodies just that. My affinity toward The Caretaker represents one of my most unexpected musical-taste surprises of the last decade or so, and his work has become some of my very favourite within the genre.
Picture yourself swimming to the ocean’s floor and coming across a black shipwreck from the early 1900s, tipped on its side and half-buried in the sand. As you near the hull, you notice a dull glow of light emanating from inside the vessel, as well as the muffled sound of what resembles lounge music. Deep within, you come across a tilted ballroom with a wooden dance flooring at its center, debris-laden flickering chandeliers overhead, and the procession of white apparitions. Trapped in time as a carousel, they turn and spin blankly in repetitious unison. You move into the crowd, passing through the floating ghosts blinded to your presence, and approach a gramophone in the shadows. Oscillating slowly and endlessly, you tilt your head to read the spinning, faded vinyl text: “The Caretaker”. The needle is stuck, but you dare not interfere.
I suspect my first encounter with The Caretaker will have powerful associations for as long as I listen to him. Upon learning of his critically-acclaimed record “An Empty Bliss Beyond This World” (and equally intrigued by its title), I located his streaming site, pressed play and let it run through. During my listen, I happened to be reading personal anecdotes from the travesties of World War II. Scrolling through black-and-white photographs, quotes, and factual recounts of these characters of history, I had found the perfect musical accompaniment. With his masterful selection and manipulation of near-ancient era music, he stifles melody amidst the thick crackle and hiss of aged, well-loved vinyl and loops it all in hypnotic constancy.
Since 1999’s aptly titled debut “Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom”, The Caretaker has delivered album after album of eerie, nostalgic incantations of minimalism and memory. His masterpiece was later discovered in 2011’s “An Empty Bliss Beyond This World”, a quintessential piece of his massive body of work. Follow-up LP “Patience (After Sebald)”, a soundtrack to the eponymous documentary, is a beautiful, largely piano-based continuation of his time-lapsed ambiance. As with most albums mentioned on this site, I would encourage the listener to experience The Caretaker’s in entirety.
Favourite track: All you are going to want to do is get back there… this may mark the only time a grandparent will hear your music and say, “Hey, what’s that?”