While DJs and other turntable artists generally dig crates in search for funky breaks, ambient artist James Leyland Kirby taps the pop music of a far older generation for Everywhere at the End of Time. He takes crackling 78s of pre-war pop and loops fragments of melodies to evoke stages of dementia. The first part of a projected six-album project, Everywhere hews fairly closely to Kirby’s 2011 album An Empty Bliss Beyond this World. If you haven’t heard The Caretaker before, this concept is intriguing and even beautiful. But one wonders how much of it you really need to hear.

The album can come off like a surreal version of “Name That Tune”; is that a fragment of the standard “Say it Isn’t So” on “Late afternoon drifting”? The repeating brass lines of “Childishly fresh eyes” suggest barely remembered muzak, and is superficially soothing. A loop like “Slightly bewildered” is mildly disorienting, with a hint of the frustration one might get performing a piece on piano that they just can’t get right. Over the course of a whole album, you begin to mistrust your own memory: Did I already hear this melody on this album, or on The Caretaker’s previous work?

The album continues Kirby’s long obsession with Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Kirby put out his first release as The Caretaker in 1999 with work inspired by the film’s eerie final sequence. His projects have since been variations on a theme, like the 72 mp3s that made up Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia in 2005.

Kirby recently told The Quietus, “Wouldn’t it be better to give the whole project dementia?” Thus Everywhere will be followed at semiannual intervals by successive volumes, each more sonically degraded than the next. The concept is such that he could simply release the same record six times and chalk it up to forgetfulness.

From Proust to Marienbad to Memento, memory is a potent theme in art, its failings not only an embarrassment but a potential threat to one’s very identity. Do we not repeat ourselves, to the frustrations of our loved ones and ourselves? That’s the gist of Everywhere at the End of Time, and while the album doesn’t lack for atmosphere, it’s essentially an album of loops, with five more coming down the pike. Kirby promises that the set will chart the progress, or rather degeneration, of dementia, but as his previous work marks him as much of a conceptual artist as a musician, the collect-them-all aspect becomes insidious. Did I already purchase volume three? Did I hear this volume four track before?

“My heart will stop in joy” ends the album with a soaring, echoing horn section that sounds like the pinnacle of big band ballroom romance. It’s a gorgeous loop, but it’s still a loop. Kirby plans to put an end to his Caretaker persona with this six-album project. One hopes this next effort isn’t just another pretty loop.

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