Saturday, 23 August 2008
The new Caretaker record, 'Persistent Repetition of Phrases' is excellent, and certainly the best one yet. The fact that it has been released by another label (INSTALL) shows that the Caretaker project has brought V/Vm a level of respect and critical acclaim that he hasn't achieved before.
One of my biggest problems with the Caretaker has always been a lack of professionalism - the theory and intentions are of course excellent, but there has always been an excess of transparency in the technique and execution, meaning that often the music evokes less a condition of dyschronia and amnesia and more a condition of 'bitcrushia' and 'timestretchia'. This is obviously part of the V/Vm world - he is what we could describe as a 'punk' technologist, so the complaint of amateurishness is a obviously a little bit superfluous.
The new record certainly avoids many of the problems of previous Caretaker efforts. The 9 tracks are more considered, and really succeed in the effort to evoke the frustrations of faulty memory. Whereas previously tracks were often entire songs played back slowly and through some reverb filters, this record deals more maturely with sampling, building succinct tracks out of very small pieces of the source material, which then allows them to access that quality of repetition, both addictive and frustrating, that all good sampled music achieves. Concerning the title track, I am thoroughly convinced that I own the record from which the piano phrase comes from, but its identity has thus far remained, of course, tantalisingly out of my recollective reach.
Although the Caretaker has moved with this record more towards the logic of sampling, his work is actually best described as 'transcription', the re-writing of an existing piece, placing it into an alien context that necessarily doubles the act of listening, the original and its excessive (or occasionally reductive) new existence. The Caretaker has always utilised this effect - the occluded subject and the bodiless variation, always presented in a new arrangement or proportion. In 'Theoretically Pure...', there are certain pieces that have lost their body completely, consisting only of the accreted sonic amnesiac material.
Despite the Caretaker's excellence and uniqueness, the theme of memory-music is not exhausted by his work. The methodology of transfiguring music to create effects of memoricity has a long history, and the trope is amply represented by classical composers. For example, the parallels between the Caretaker and this piece, "Immortal Bach" by Knut Nystedt, which is a transcription of Bach's "Komm süßer Tod" ('Come, sweet Death'), are obvious, both sonically and conceptually. The Nysted piece simply repeats Bach's at altered tempos, but the richness of the effect is fantastic, the tonalities overlapping to give a suspended and complex harmonic pallette, and the phrases slowly drifting out of intelligibility, the language undoing itself.
p.s- upon further listening, I find 'Persistent...' to be rather reminiscent of certain Susumu Yokota works, make of that what you will.