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The Caretaker, "Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia"

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The Caretaker is here to take listeners on a trip deep into the foggy subconscious mind where perception, memory, and dream all collapse into a syrupy void.  If this six disc set isn't enough murky drone for a lifetime, I don't know what is.

 

V/vm Test Records

In a long history of projects that I admire on a conceptual level more than I enjoy on a practical one, this limited edition six disc set has to be right up there. The Caretaker's entire raison d'être is to explore the vibe of a scene from Kubrick's The Shining through sound. Sure, there's a bit more to it as the well-written liner notes instruct, but the basic premise is really that simple. There's that scene in The Shining where the ghostly ballroom emerges and the caretaker seems dislocated in time, unable to distinguish the present from the past, the real from the imagined, or the dream state from the waking, and that's the backdrop for six full length cds of minimal drones. I should start by saying that the music is almost all beautiful, albeit in a creepy way. It appears to be composed of bits of sampled music that have been slowed down, stretched, and reverberated into near oblivion the way that a fistfull of sand is dispersed when you throw it against concrete.

To describe the music is to do the whole project a disservice.  In fact, if this were the kind of release that was meant to be described by one person to another, there wouldn't be six discs of basically the same thing.  At first, I was mesmerized by the basic sound design and the concept.  I don't know that I was really letting go of myself in the kind of way that would be required for this set to work its full magic, but I was playing along.  I popped in the second disc and was greeted with more of the same kind of grainy, slow, drifts of sound that populated the first disc.  Ocassionally, there are tiny fragments of recognizable music the float into the mix like David Lynch's Lady in the Radiator playing DJ to a Christmas party.  Still, trainspotting samples in a set like this is also beside the point.

By the time I was on the third disc, I started to realize that the whole enterprise was either a cruel joke (and V/Vm are known perhaps as much for their pranks and offbeat sense of humor as for their music) or the logical result of carrying out the experiment to lose touch with time and place quite seriously.  Because by the third disc, I wasn't sure if I'd already heard these bits before on the first one.  By the fourth disc, I was just skipping randomly through tracks and then listening back to the whole thing wondering what would happen if I had six cd players all plugged in to a 12 speaker surround sound setup.  I found it almost impossible to concentrate on the music itself or on the mood it was evoking, as I was far too concerned with how the discs might be used in other ways; sped up to sound 'normal' or played backwards or all at once or sampled to make hip hop tracks--my mind was boggling.  

 At that point, I realized that the experience of Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia is going to be both resolutely individual depending on the listener, and that the whole thing takes a certain kind of release of the will in order to work.  I've never been good at sitting in one of those chairs where you strap on some LED flashing goggles while a guy plays you alpha wave inducing drones.  I just can't let my conscious self go enough for that not to seem completely corny.  In the same way, it feels like a six hour marathon of these discs without interruption would be the only way to truly grok what it is they are about.  I must say that I'm absolutely curious what The Caretaker will be doing live to bring this experience to an audience.  I'm glad to have this strange and beautiful but ultimately overwhelming artifact of their work if for no other reason than it's a terrific example of a simple idea manifest in a deeply challenging way.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 October 2006 14:17  


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