Sunday 5 February 2023

The Caretaker - Everywhere At The End Of Time

What the fuck?

After writing about Burial recently and declaring him THE musician of the Millennium, I've been challenging that declaration in my head. The only other real contender I can come up with is The Caretaker, I think. Although the entire premise of this idea is bit of a pointless folly innit?, perhaps belonging more to the 20th century. While looking for an audio clip to use in this discussion I came across a phenomenon I had no idea was occurring. 

How on earth has The Caretaker's six and a half hour demented experimental masterpiece Everywhere At The End Of Time had over 28 million views on youtube in less than four years? What the hell is going on? Why has a 6 volume concept album about dementia found a teenage following in the 2020s? 

I would have thought The Caretaker was the kind of artist to sell a few thousand copies of each record in every western capital city, retaining a worldwide underground cult status. However it's not the 90s anymore and my brain is not really fit for analysis of this millennium. There are all sorts of ways music becomes known now not just from the radio, music videos and movie soundtracks like in the 80s. I mean I do know about downloads, going viral and youtube algorithms but I'm not fully across what the fuck tik-tok challenges, creepypastas and modding are. Nor do I particularly care.

It seems someone with a black sense of humour went on tik-tok during the lockdowns in 2020 and challenged the kids to endure over six hours of largely ominous atmospheric noise that at the extremes can be either disturbing or lovely. Somehow it caught on like wildfire and a perfect storm coalesced on the interwebs to catapult The Caretaker to blockbuster status.

Along with this challenge other factors including youtube breakdown videos, modding, (cover)art critiques, exhibitions, urban legends, supreme nerdy fandom, bandcamp algorithms, parody albums, tribute albums, fan art albums etc. contributed to The Caretaker becoming widely known on the 2020s internet. It's particularly interesting that none of the individual videos of each of the 6 volumes have reached a million views but the video for the entire 6 volumes combined has reached 28 million views. That's pretty wild.

I can't recall if I ever heard Everywhere At The End Of Time without the knowledge that it was supposed to be a journey into senility. I probably would have thought of it as some kinda beast betwixt lovely and haunted. Once you know the premise for the record existing though you cannot un-know that fact and it will always taint your listening experience. However his previous work had been about nostalgia, haunted memory, decay, amnesia, regret, brain disorders etc. so I guess it wasn't a stretch for my mind to be thinking about the intended themes of this album. 

This ambitious project is a meticulously constructed sonic world brilliantly depicting the brain devolving through a myriad of states from calm, blissful, confused, nostalgic, despondent, disoriented, empty and terrified to eventually disintegrating into oblivion. 

Everywhere At The End Of Time: Stage 5 was my favourite upon release as noted in my 2018 round-up. Now I think Volume 4 is the one for me personally. I've also found a new appreciation for the first three LPs in this set particularly the third volume. The first two LPs in this series are usually seen as less noteworthy because they go over similar ground covered on The Caretaker's first three albums (Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom (99), A Stairway To The Stars (02) & We'll All Go Riding On A Rainbow (03)) but they actually give a new perspective on that trademarked scratchy music hall style to align with the MO of Everywhere At The End Of Time. All records in this set are great and an integral part of the listening experience which should entail listening to them in order to get the full effect. However each volume can be listened to by itself as they stand up on their own merits which is a testament to the vision of The Caretaker aka Leyland Kirby

The bittersweet Glimpses Of Hope In Trying Times is the outstanding track from Stage 2. It breaks up the lovely Ballroom nostalgia that has gone before and foreshadows the ominous demise soon to be experienced on later records in the set. 

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