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- Watching Dead Empires In Decay by The Stranger
9/10 Brian Staff review, 11 October 2013
I've something to admit. I don't really dig a massive amount of the Leyland Kirby/Caretaker material as it appears there is now such vast swathes of it in existence that it quickly became much like a cookie-cutter parody of itself - a one trick pony that suddenly had JLK elevated to a plinth declaring him contemporary darling of the dark avant-drone set when I think he'd rather just be comfortably elevated on a barstool.
All I could picture was him getting up in a morning, shaggy Robert Plant hair a-frizz, scratching his nads, yawning and sitting at his laptop to make yet another decaying soundscape for the day. Everybody still wants more, I'm sure. I reckon I'm either missing something or maybe just easily bored. Not to say it wasn't an excellent idea in the first place - in the right setting there are chunks of that catalogue that are as moving and sublime as 'The Disintegration Loops'. But that's another over-glorified concept that no-one surely needs a bursting hard-drive full of eh?
It's his 'Intrigue and Stuff' recordings and the progressive dark ambient material under this Stranger alias I love, the more varied experimental, thoughtful...personal music Mr. Kirby produces. The idle play with dark shifting forms; the threatening and sinister electro-acoustics; the stealthy, nay terrifying industrial clanging; the dystopian synth-work steeped in melancholy, those sloth-like dingy beats and, in particular, these brilliantly foreboding grainy textures that grace his Modern Love debut. They are so fabulous.
My highlights from this very impressive album are 'So Pale it Shone in The Night' - like a midnight stalker take on the Moritz Von Oswald Trio whilst the crackly, elegiac 'Providence of Fate' spills with mournful grace, dense funereal percussion underpins an incredibly moving piece of music. Many people's highlight will be the "apparently" Boards of Canada inspired 'Where Are Our Monsters Now, Where Are Our Friends" - this is the one with those "dying world" apocalyptic synths and unnerving mid-range stabs - the beat a depressed trudge through a park in the freezing snow where all the trees are burnt charcoal black - a bleak, wonky piece that possesses a strangely addictive charisma.
For me, 'Watching Dead Empires in Decay' is a truly fascinating document of dense sonic artistry and exploratory electronica so weighs up as his most fulfilling work to date for these oft-tired ears. It should really get a full ten but I don't think the man likes a sycophant.
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