Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia
always believed that the v/VM label had only three speeds: “I’ll fucking hurt you,” “I’ll fucking annoy you,” and “I’ll fucking scare you.” This, the fourth Caretaker release, seems to offer another option; a ghost train ride through a sometimes beautiful, sometimes melancholic, and always muddled past that you never actually experienced.
Apparently built from the wreckage of creepily manipulated 78rpm records, this collection of mp3s isn’t just a huge dump of gratis outtakes, thirty-second bursts of ambience, or crap loops left over from the next LP. They’re fully fledged pieces, and taken in one sitting it can be quite a lengthy headfuck. While most tracks are similar in that they all have a dusty and distant feel (nothing is distinct or clear here), they all manage to put varying and different degrees of separation between reality and memory, making all seventy-two pieces a worthwhile listen despite the album’s length and the 531MB of space needed to house it.
For those who’d rather pick at the edges there are many highlights from which to choose. These swing easily from Merzbow to Birchville Cat Motel to the much more polite sounds of Boards of Canada. For a good taste test it’d be worth trying to see if “Memory Twelve” hooks you. Lying just at the edge of melody, it hovers precariously between sinister and magnificently epic with delirious swooning burnt silhouetted strings. Beauty can also be found in the superb “Memory Twenty One” whose circling patterns of light move like Loveless’ “Touched” recorded direct to mirrorball or with Busby Berkley smoking a cigar on his balcony beneath the twinkling stars on “Memory Sixty Seven.” But best of all is “Memory Twenty Six”s impression of a Simon Raymonde bassline played by an orchestra on dust soaked layered vinyl.
The Caretaker does nasty as well as he does pretty: even though “Memory Nineteen” may well have once been a jaunty little dancefloor number, it has now been transformed into a bleak blood smeared circuit board. Memories like “Memory Fifty Four” come and go with Rohypnol horns that insinuate a slurred ruined melody you never hear in full. It would’ve been easy to build a collection of evil sounding themes from these devolutions and it’s to The Caretaker’s credit that this compilation has several different flavours to offer. The only easily criticised piece here is “Memory Fifty” which sounds like The Caretaker just turned the whole thing backwards and pressed play. In such good company it ends up sounding just that bit too straight to fit in.
Any album that necessitates a label revaluation and a scramble for a back catalogue needs to be checked out. And, in this case, you have no excuse: it’s not like it’s going to cost you anything.
JANUARY 2 – JANUARY 8, 2006
Reviewed by: Scott McKeating
Reviewed on: 2006-01-03