The Caretaker
Patience (After Sebald)


4.0
excellent

Review

by MisterTornado CONTRIBUTOR (47 Reviews)
January 16th, 2012 | 24 replies | 5,153 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Everything is on the point of decline

There is a scene in The Pianist where Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Jewish pianist in hiding during World War II, is caught by a German officer. In the swollen tapestry of a run-down slum consists a piano, and soon after Szpilman is caught, he's asked by the officer to play a piece on it. It's an engrossing, utterly haunting piece, and every time I put on The Caretaker's music, I'm echoed of its memory. Szpilman's condition is devastating and his ballad is somber, yet there's a ghostly beauty to it all; a man on his last leg, with all circumstance against him, releasing such elegance through the keys of music. “Everything is on the point of decline” states the opening track of Patience (After Sebald), a statement that not only translates to the album itself, but how The Caretaker approaches music. In Szpilman’s case, his life was in shackles, a complete decline in every sense, but when he was playing the piano he was free, somewhere else completely despite his circumstance. The Caretaker’s music is the product of time regressed vinyl, forgotten and decayed as years turned into decades, yet the music he creates out of his damaged sources cradles a delicate fragility, and despite their condition beauty is the result of its own decline.

As The Caretaker, Leyland Kirby has been developing a sound since the late '90s uniquely his own. Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Kirby takes fragments of obscure turn of the century ballroom 78s and warps them into surrealistic, dream-like reminisces of the time in which they came. These compositions generally work in one of two ways; one, as a repetitive loop of a gently woven phrases, lulling the listener into a slightly comatose state of trance, or two, as a longer succession of blending phrases that appear and re-appear in a dizzying aural sentiment. Last year's An Empty Bliss Beyond This World embraced the latter, and proved his music could reach a wider audience, as the album was met with a surprising amount of critical praise. An Empty Bliss acted as a welcome introduction to his more challenging back catalogue; where The Caretaker’s music is in every sense of the word, colder.

Though taken into consideration, Patience (After Sebald) is a different beast in The Caretaker’s catalogue. The album is a soundtrack to Grant Gee's film of the same name (who also directed Radiohead’s Meeting People Is Easy), which documents the work of influential German writer W.G. Sebald. Gee describes the film as a "multi-layered essay on landscape, art, history, life and loss", while Kirby has stated his soundtrack is "more of a winter album" and "alot darker". Taken in as an album, Patience doesn't necessarily feel like a set of songs attached to a film, rather a loose interpretations of the gripping surrealist black and white frames of the movie. Though because the film is relatively dark in subject matter, the tone of the album is much bleaker than that of its predecessor, like the wide-eyed portrait of a hanging willow tree shrouded in a blanket of snow, or the monochrome hallucinations of Chaplin-era cinematography.

The most notable difference between Patience and other Caretaker albums is that it consists heavily of century-old recordings from classical genius Franz Schubert, deconstructed, warped, and re-imagined in typical Caretaker fashion. This gives Patience an unsettling sense of romanticism; the piano melodies are lighter and more sparse, as opposed to the often weighted density of previous albums. Gone is The Caretaker’s signature ballroom affair, replaced by unsettling avant-garde classical numbers and noise obscured black and white memories. For the most part the change in sound is less abstract than previous material, though the way Kirby constructs these songs follows the challenging bleakness of his earliest work, making it less immediate, while still maintaining his signature haunting atmosphere; like the ghosts of another Stanley Kubrick film, Barry Lyndon.

The album’s darkest arrangements introduce confronting elements to the music, such as the wall of noise hissing throughout the depths of the albums opening number, or the thick vibrations of sunken choral drones lingering throughout “Now the night is over and the dawn is about to break”. These foreboding characteristics can be heard harmonizing with one another on “No one knows what shadowy memories haunt them to this day”, as an opaque veil of static looms amongst the bellow of a cloaked and faceless choir. Further down the spiral, alienation is suggested as the equivalence of death on “I have become almost invisible, to some extent like a dead man”, as a suspenseful piano melody sparsely resonates its dire allegory, while time slowly advances through the faint ticking of a clock.

Though occasionally we are pulled out of the depths of these somber melodies by a number of uplifting pieces, yielding a fine rosary amidst the grieving sorrow. “A last glimpse of the land being lost forever” may be The Caretaker’s most straightforward recording to date, yet it commands such a heartbreaking ambience. Similarly, there’s an emotionally endearing quality within the innocence of a track like “Increasingly absorbed in his own World”, which sounds reminiscent of the whimsical piano melodies heard on Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, evoking a kind of unsettlingly sentimental wonder. When it comes to sheer aching beauty, “When the dog days were drawing to an end” rivals anything The Caretaker has ever recorded, leaving the listener vulnerable to a flood of incandescent memories, as the sparkling simplicity of a repeated succession of keys drowns sorrow into the recesses of the mind in which it came.

One of Leyland Kirby’s strongest assets as a musician is his ability to contrast moods, themes, and concepts, and on Patience he manages to find an intriguing balance between beauty and hostility. This makes the opposing moods sound believable and relatable to the listener, like Wladyslaw Szpilman’s tender ballad against Jack Torrance’s hallucinatory downfall. This is one of the most powerful aspects of the album, and though it is technically a soundtrack, Patience doesn’t rely on the accompaniment of a visual aid to be effective, for it works just as well as a standalone album as it does a soundtrack. Though it’s bleaker and less immediate that its predecessor, Patience is the first Caretaker album that doesn’t follow in shadow of previous releases, expanding his sound beyond the ballroom while retaining the wide-eyed beauty and ghastly haunt that’s made him such distinct personality in the world of ambient music. Patience (After Sebald) is as much a document on life as it is on loss, ultimately rewarding those willing to listen a little closer, for The Caretaker proves that with every new listen, hidden within the recesses of our mind await memories worth living and dying for in our mortal story of perpetual decline.



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user ratings (29)
Chart.
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
January 16th 2012



4250 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Stream it: http://thecaretaker.bandcamp.com/album/patience-after-sebald

Digging: Ju Sei and Utah Kawasaki - ??????

Bloodbirds
January 16th 2012



250 Comments


Very well written. My curiosity is piqued. I'll find this ASAP.

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
January 16th 2012



2695 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This has been chilling on my hard-drive for a couple of days now, thank you for reminding me it was there. Judging by your (rather great) review, it's going to be fantastic.

Xenophanes
Emeritus
January 16th 2012



10556 Comments


This is a really fucking good review

Digging: Saintseneca - Dark Arc

FelixCulpa
January 16th 2012



1236 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review Tornado. The beautiful artwork of this album drew me to listen to it and I was surprised
by how drawn to the music I was. I usually can't get into an ambient album right away but it was the
opposite with this album. I love the static-y noise that sorta sounds like rain, or a muffled train
chugging along, that's present in almost every song.

Also got An empty bliss beyond this World and loved that too. "All you are going to want to do is get
back there" and "Camaraderie at arms length" are so addicting, just love the melody. Reminds me of a
1930's mob game I played as a kid (Mafia) so it kinda becomes nostalgic. But I also felt the haunted
ballroom vibe you portrayed in you're review of that album.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
January 16th 2012



14887 Comments


is the static supposed to be, like, REALLY heavy on this release? i love "increasingly absorbed in his own world"

Knott-
Emeritus
January 16th 2012



10194 Comments


Lol I found this in my RSS earlier, downloaded it, thought it was awful.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
January 16th 2012



30320 Comments


Didn't realise there were like 12 other albums floating around

Digging: L'Orange - The Orchid Days

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
January 16th 2012



14887 Comments


first impression is that this is cool sometimes but is mostly just like...a noisier, less evocative version of "empty bliss". but i'm totally stuck on that album so maybe comparing his other works to it is a hopeless cause

but i mean

seedofnothing
January 16th 2012



3425 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

When in the mood, this album is utterly amazing.

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
January 16th 2012



4250 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"The beautiful artwork of this album drew me to listen to it"

Certainly, it was done by Ivan Seal. He also did the art for An Empty Bliss and Leyland Kirby's Eager To Tear The Stars Apart. He's a great artist, you should check out some of his other paintings.

"I love the static-y noise that sorta sounds like rain, or a muffled train
chugging along, that present in almost every song."

Yeah, and best of all it presents another way to listen to his music. It's more confronting, but there's something unique about the contrast.

"is the static supposed to be, like, REALLY heavy on this release?"

The static is relatively light, though it takes up a considerable amount of the space on songs like "Approaching the outer limits of our solar system" or "In the deep and dark hours of the night".

"Didn't realise there were like 12 other albums floating around"

Mhm, he's been releasing material as The Caretaker since '99.

"first impression is that this is cool sometimes but is mostly just like...a noisier, less evocative version of "empty bliss". but i'm totally stuck on that album so maybe comparing his other works to it is a hopeless cause

but i mean"

Understandable, though I think it was smart of him to release this so early on the year, as I believe it's real grower of an album. Less immediate, but just as deep of material as An Empty brought to the table.

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
January 17th 2012



4250 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Hey would you look at that, they posted the whole album on YouTube yesterday. Now you have no excuse not to listen to this folks.

Listen to Patience (After Sebald): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edWk-theSZc

seedofnothing
January 17th 2012



3425 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah that's the link I just finished with. Love when whole albums are posted.

ITsHxCTOASTER
January 17th 2012



2432 Comments


If you guys don't know the blog By Endurance We Conquered you might want to check it out. This is relevant.

But about the music, I can tell I like this but it's gonna take a lot more listening for this to really sink in. I loved An Empty Bliss Beyond This World though, so I have a feeling I'll feel the same way about this

patrickfannon
January 17th 2012



884 Comments


Still waiting for this to get here from England. Goddamn snail mail.

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
January 18th 2012



4250 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"If you guys don't know the blog By Endurance We Conquered you might want to check it out. This is relevant."

Looks interesting

"But about the music, I can tell I like this but it's gonna take a lot more listening for this to really sink in. I loved An Empty Bliss Beyond This World though, so I have a feeling I'll feel the same way about this"

It's certainly a grower, mood music for when the time's right.

"Still waiting for this to get here from England. Goddamn snail mail."

Fucking jealous, I'd pay full price just for the cover art.

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
February 14th 2012



4250 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

You can stream/download the whole thing on Bandcamp now. Plus there's some extra tracks you can check out, fucking badass.

http://thecaretaker.bandcamp.com/album/extra-patience-after-sebald

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
February 22nd 2012



4250 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah it's quick to follow-up Empty Bliss, though it's technically a soundtrack and was apparently completed before Empty Bliss, so the little gap in time makes sense

seedofnothing
February 23rd 2012



3425 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

classical ambient munchies

fish.
Contributing Reviewer
July 1st 2012



20280 Comments


I've listened to bits of this and bits of Empty Bliss and I prefer what I've heard off this

Digging: YG - My Krazy Life



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