Things That Are Beautiful And Transient

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Recent figures suggest dementia has now overtaken heart disease as our leading cause of death. I’m not sure what conclusion we might draw from that, we’re taking better care of our hearts and bodies but are still trapped in our minds perhaps. The horror of dementia, of loss of identity and personality of not knowing your own loved ones faces rather makes the good old fashioned heart attack seem benign and merciful by comparison. It’s death slowed to a crawl and it’s no wonder we prefer to look away, hoping to be in the lucky few who escape. It’s not the sort of subject people make much music about, rubbing red raw against the more lofty and abstract existentialist strain of misery and doom. Leyland Kirby is taking it on though, in a move that makes absolute sense he has given an early onset dementia diagnosis to his Caretaker persona and is set to play out the effects of the condition across a final six releases, one every six months. Kirby has been making records as The Caretaker for ages now, I was surprised to see that ‘Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom’ came out in 1999. If you’re unfamiliar, that title pretty much covers it. Inspired by the final scene in The Shining he makes uneasy ambient music from disintegrating loops of old ballroom music. Memory and the passing of time have always been the subject but he’s been refining his approach and content all along. Shifting to specifically address short term memory loss his researches into the music he draws from and the medical conditions he relates it to has deepened and deepened. It has proved an unlikely but remarkably rich source because while the records are all fundamentally the same they get better, more fully realised, more skilfully assembled and more resonant. This is the best yet, the purest and most beautiful realisation of this idea. The music is gorgeous, warm and comforting and instantly familiar. It’s also the peak, the mountain top. The next five installments are set to mirror the progression of dementia, Kirby has expressed his conviction that this will make them increasingly hard to listen to. To that end, you can pay £5 for this first installment and receive the rest free as they arrive so convinced is he of the difficulty of getting anyone to listen to the final phase. In the meantime this is a beautiful thing. There’s a beautiful if unsettling full length film clip in a kind of virtual submerged hotel if you want to watch…

also of interest, a video game that helps research into dementia – Sea Hero Quest early findings suggest the faculties begin to fade once were out of our teens, which is hardly cheering.

 

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