23 April 2007


More haunted audio, 'recalled' by The Caretaker. After last year's colossally impenetrable six-CD collection 'Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia' James Kirby returns with a more concise, more accessible (but no less confounding) collection of nebulous memoradelia on a double vinyl set care of Belgian label We/Me. This limited vinyl approach is the complete opposite of what James was doing last year with the free internet downloads and CD releases - this album is ultra-exclusive, ultra-brittle, and only about 300 listeners in the world will be able to experience it in it's intended form.

The decision to release on vinyl is significant. The music has been deliberately mastered at low level to encourage the build up of surface noise over time. This music is not meant to be enshrined in pristine digital clarity for all eternity, it is subject to entropy. The state of decay is part of the listening experience. This isn't as crazy as it sounds: I like old music to sound old - I'm not particularly keen on digital remasters. That's why I only listen to the pop music of my childhood via crackly 7" singles or my secret stash of K-Tel compilations, where 20 songs are crushed onto a single plate of wax, compressed and tinny, just like the way they sounded on MW transistor radios in the seventies.

While I'm on this subject, one of the things I find incomprehensible about the otherwise worthy Ghost Box label is that they insist on only releasing their music on CD, that invention of the Thatcherite eighties, completely at odds with the post-war British environment that they wish to invoke. It shouldn't be about convenience or unit costs - the format itself should be integral to the project. The other point about Ghostbox that I find mildly disconcerting is the way that they veer dangerously into the realms of pastiche, deliberately recreating the sonic signifiers of a bygone age, encouraging a cuddly sense of nostalgia. When they get it right, it can be profoundly affecting, but still I find the Caretaker's approach is braver. There's nothing you can really cling onto as specifically familiar (although if pushed I might make vague comparisons to "Zeit"-period Tangerine Dream or the 'Monolith' scenes in Kubrick's '2001 - A Space Odyssey'), it's more about creating an atmosphere, an aged tint, a ghostly non-place that induces reverie rather than a wry smile. A place where buried memories might leak out. The really brave aspect of The Caretaker project is that James puts his faith in the listener to map his or her own psyche across these drifting plains of amorphous choral harmonics and slivers of somnolent static. You only get out of it what you're prepared to put in. You wanna know what I get out of it? None of your damn business. Grab a copy while you can and start facing your own demons.