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My Experience Listening To The Caretaker’s “Everywhere At The End Of Time”

image posted by u/spoongnome on Reddit

Warning: Mentions of Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and memory loss throughout.

If you’re already familiar with the six-stage musical project that is The Caretaker’s Everywhere At The End Of Time, then it probably comes as no surprise as to why I am writing an article like this about it. But for those who were unaware of a project like this until now, be warned that this is not a musical piece for the faint of heart.

With the six stages of this project being released between 2016 and 2019 , Everywhere At The End Of Time is arguably the most prominent piece from UK producer Leyland James Kirby’s musical project The Caretaker. And much like many people before me, I was absolutely fascinated by the project solely on the surface level. The amount of reception that it received from people claiming that this project “broke them”, I couldn’t help but feel that Everywhere At The End Of Time reflected my desire to listen to a musical project with the impact of a speeding truck.

Upon my first attempt to delve in to this project however, I realised just how fleshed-out this project truly was, with each of its six stages coming together to make just over six and a half hours of listening time, with each of the stages varying in duration. Furthermore, Everywhere At The End Of Time definitely didn’t feel like a project I could simply skim over. If I wanted to get the full sense of what this project artistically represents, I would have to listen to all of it, or at least one stage at a time.

This discovery of the musical project, and the kind of feelings that it invoked in me, served as part of the driving force behind why I decided to write as unique of an article as possible surrounding it.

However, there is also the concept that this musical project is focused on. Throughout the three years that Everywhere At The End Of Time developed, it became clearer and clearer to listeners what the project was all about. James Kirby’s masterpiece represents the stages of memory loss, that happen as a result of Dementia, in a completely artistic and musical way.

This concept really hit a nerve with me personally, as I have experienced a grandparent suffer from Dementia, triggered by Alzheimer’s, and it eventually led to their passing. There were only a few select memories I had as a child, in which I remember sharing moments with this relative before Alzheimer’s completely took hold. And with that being said, I never truly got the chance to connect with them the same way in my late childhood and teenage years. Somehow, this project offered a chance for me to at least understand what they must’ve been going through.

But even with these attributes to motivate me, I knew that it would be close to impossible, trying to listen to the project completely from start to finish. As a result, I felt that the best course of action would be to explore the stages one-by-one, in a writing formula that could be seen as similar to six diary entries. At the end of the day, those who knew of the project’s existence from the very beginning, most likely had to listen to each stage in the same way. I am also going to go ahead and write about each stage as I listen to them, meaning that I may write about them in a fairly spontaneous manner.

So here I go, to try and review what may just be the most artistically dark musical project I have ever heard; The Caretaker’s Everywhere At The End Of Time.

Stage 1 | 00:00:00–00:41:21

“Here we experience the first signs of memory loss. This stage is most like a beautiful daydream. The glory of old age and recollection. The last of the great days.”

For a musical that is set out to depict memory loss, Stage 1 of Everything At The End Of Time is anything but forgettable. In-fact, the first track “It’s just a burning memory” has been looping in my head from the moment I discovered this project. But that is the genius behind this first stage.

Stage 1 carries with it a lot of classical sounds that almost give off a similar vibe to the melody that plays at the iconic closing scene of Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining, and furthermore gives off a very ominous and unsettling feel in the most underlying and subtle way possible.

Furthermore, I feel that this stage expertly connected me with the kind of era my grandparent was part of, thanks to the atmosphere that the classical sounds gave off.

But overall, this stage is relatively mundane, in the sense that it isn’t immediately obvious that something is troublingly wrong. And yet, I still got the slightest inkling that something wasn’t right, thanks to the ominous ambience that the melodies of stage 1 creates.

At the start of stage 1, the only real sign that something is wrong comes in the form of the crackle that accompanies the classical sounds. However, I felt that this did more to reflect how long ago the “great days” may be to many of the people who have suffered from Alzheimer’s, and furthers my personal connection to my grandparent.

But I noticed things do indeed get subtly less mundane from around the 13 minute mark, with the track titled “Slightly bewildered”. This track was the first in which I noticed a few rare imperfections in the sound, and there would occasionally be a subtle jolt in the composition, that knots the overall sound a fair bit more, and makes it sound slightly more chaotic than what had come before it. Along with this, the crackle feels more audible at this point.

Once we get past the 20 minute mark, and we turn over to the B side of Stage 1, the first track we are greeted with, titled “All that follows is true”, melodically feels quite similar to the opener of Stage 1, but it feels slightly more warped this time around, to the point where you could say it sounds completely different in a structural sense.

Throughout the B side, I also noticed that while still melodically sound, the majority of the tracks also feel harder to grasp in a rhythmical sense. in other words, the sounds are a lot more fluid.

Nevertheless, Stage 1 feels far from chaotic, and I could definitely see myself listening to this stage for the soothing classical sounds it contains. But the fact that I was not directly sent into a chaotic soundscape only shows how much artistic integrity and care had been put into this project. This stage is definitely the part that makes it the clearest, that James Kirby wanted this project to be a complete experience with a lasting effect.

Stage 2 | 00:41:22–01:23:16

“The second stage is the self realisation and awareness that something is wrong with a refusal to accept that. More effort is made to remember so memories can be more long form with a little more deterioration in quality. The overall personal mood is generally lower than the first stage and at a point before confusion starts setting in.”

The moment that this stage bengun, it felt noticeably different to the first. In the opener of this stage, we do have a similarly classical tune, much like what I had heard in stage 1. However, there is almost a sweeping noise that spans the entirety of this track, and it almost feels like the classical melody is fighting against that noise, trying to garner as much of our attention away from the sweeping noise as possible.

I felt that this was instantly an amazing representation of what stage 2 is apparently about; the refusal to accept that something is wrong. In its attempt to combat the persistent sweeping sound, the melody winds up getting slightly warped in places, which I gathered is a pretty good representation of the memories beginning to become affected, and this is only the first damn track!

After this, what else I notice is that everything sounds more melodically unsetting this time around. The overall atmosphere this time around no longer feels glorious, but on the contrary, feels incredibly melancholy and depressing. An amazing example of this has to be the track “What does it matter how my heart breaks”, which is structurally identical to Stage 1’s “It’s just a burning memory”, but now feels like a wilted, dying version of said track, and the realisation of this comparison shook me to my core. It was at this point where I was beginning to realise just how talented James Kirby was at making a severe musical impact, as long as the listener is paying attention.

The following track, “Glimpses of hope in trying times” adds that these sounds also give off a much creepier vibe than anything in stage 1, as well as depressing and unsettling. Any semblance of glory now seems completely gone.

It feels as if there’s something else being added to the unsettling nature of this stage with each track. In “Surrendering to despair”, a track which feels like a mockery of the glory now lost (fitting that it played right after my personal realisation of this fact), I could hear what sounded like fast-paced footsteps, which didn’t link up with the beaten melody at-all.

Bare in mind that what I have covered so far as well, is only the first side of this stage. We now move on to the next side, which begins with one of the most tragis of the tracks thus far. “I still feel as though I am me” gives us a small taste of things to come, with the earlier part containing nothing but pitchless noise, before a graspable melody slowly fades in, grimply reflecting a victims desperate attempts to cling on to their senses. We get a brief feeling of calm in this track, but as the listener, we know deep in our hearts that it is not to last, which is a truly crushing thing to realise, especially when connecting it to the real-life condition that fuels this project’s narrative.

What follows only seems to add to this pain more, as the following tracks seem to make a return to a sound that feels more similar to stage 1. But at this stage, I knew I was kidding myself. I knew that things would not completely feel the same as they did on stage 1. I feel that my own feelings at this point, perfectly reflect how a person suffering from Alzheimer’s must be feeling at a certain stage, in which they try their hardest to deny that something is wrong, that they can still keep their memories alive and together.

But as this stage comes to a close with “The way ahead feels lonely”, we have the most melancholy melodies thus far. It perfectly reflects a feeling of complete and entire defeat.

I was completely set aback by how much had occurred in this second stage. So many feelings evoked, and so many twists and turns. It definitely felt like a confusing part of the journey, and that was exactly how it was meant to play out. It stands as a reflection of the confusion that obscures real memories with distorted ones, which presents the possibility that the effects of memory loss have now set in, and are already working to send precious memories into oblivion.

But the general consensus of part two, for me, is that the realisation that something is wrong really does come in. However, it doesn’t appear in an alarming way. Instead, it is a slow and sad realisation; one that feels all too real.

Stage 3 | 01:23:17 — 02:08:52

“Here we are presented with some of the last coherent memories before confusion fully rolls in and the grey mists form and fade away. Finest moments have been remembered, the musical flow in places is more confused and tangled. As we progress some singular memories become more disturbed, isolated, broken and distant. These are the last embers of awareness before we enter the post awareness stages.”

It seemed to me from the description of this stage, that it would be the last stage in which I would hear anything remotely melodic. But as the cover art for this stage may suggest, things feel considerably more distorted from the very moment this stage begins. The high delay that is added to the melody of stage 3’s opener, seriously distorts any sense of rhythm. The melody also felt much more alarming and bewildering to me this time around.

Following this, we have yet another rendition of the titular tune first found on “It’s just a burning memory”. With the delay and more varied instrumentation on this track, we have a version of the tune which is far more difficult to grasp. It is this tune that most strongly ties the first three projects together. And at this point, it truly feels like it is slipping away from a more conscious melody; grimly representing the slipping-away of precious memories.

The following track, “Hidden sea buried deep”, presents a disturbing addition to the distorted sounds I had heard so far on stage 3. In this track, I sensed that the moments of silence reflected that the memories represented by the melodies this earlier half of the project, are beginning to fade away and die out. It gave me a grave sense that the loss of memory was not far from taking full hold.

“Libet’s all joyful camaraderie”, to me, felt oddly similar to the opener of stage 3 in a melodic sense. And the confusion I felt as a result of this felt like it could only reflect how somebody with memory loss must be feeling when trying to collect their memories. This track presented the idea of memories being tangled with one-another, and honestly it felt quite terrifying.

Towards the end of this stages first half, I sensed quite a drastic increase in distortion. I got the first clear sense of the abysmal noise that we would get in the post-awareness stages with the track “To the minimal great hidden”, and pretty much everything else sounded distorted beyond any complete comprehension. It truly felt nightmarish to say the least. The one exception is the final track of the first half “Long term dusk glimpses”, which once again feels melodically familiar, but presents a very heartbreaking set of feelings, that these memories will not last much longer at all.

The second half of this stage truly feels like a moment in which the gap between the more melodic stages (representing memories), and the post-awareness stages, is fully bridged. From the moment this side begins, the melodies feel faint, as if they are truly beginning to die out. Furthermore, the more abysmal white noise is beginning to overshadow each melody in their faint state.

In the track “Burning despair does ache”, I was presented with an ugly cross-fusion of melodies that felt familiar thanks to the earlier stages. And in what feels like the most jumbled and distorted track so far, it masterfully reflected just how heartbreaking this second half of stage 3 is.

As I reached the end of stage 3, there was a feeling of loneliness that truly set in. The memories and sense of awareness that are represented by the tracks I had heard thus far, felt like they were fading into nothingness fast. In a track as empty-sounding as the closer of stage 3 “Mournful camaraderie”, it was the first instance where the sound put me in a completely zoned-out state, almost as if I had been sent into a state of paralysis by the unchanging noise that was scattered with the last remnants of melody. It was the closest I had felt so far to understanding what my grandparent must’ve been going through.

I felt that this stage perfectly commanded me emotionally, in the way that it needed to. Starting off with a sense of alarm and despair, that feeling slowly transitioned into one of hopelessness and surrender, a surrender that I imagine those who suffer from memory loss must feel, before entering a state of post awareness, which is to be represented in the later three stages of this musical project.

Stage 4 | 02:08:53 — 03:36:11

“Post-Awareness Stage 4 is where serenity and the ability to recall singular memories gives way to confusions and horror. It’s the beginning of an eventual process where all memories begin to become more fluid through entanglements, repetition and rupture.”

This stage is vastly different to any of the stages I had previously heard. With only four tracks (titled “Post Awareness Confusions”, “Post Awareness Confusions”, “Temporary Bliss State” and, again, “Post Areness Confusions”, this stage still somehow manages to last considerably longer than any of the previous three stages.

Everything seems to meld into one big hideous amalgamation of crackle and distortion, as shown by the earliest version of “Post Awareness Confusions”. The sound was tiresome to me; I could feel it slowly sapping the energy out of me. It was exhausting to listen to.

But on top of this, it was also definitely confusing. There are still faint melodies to be heard, including the familiar sound of “It’s just a burning memory”, but it feels way too beyond repair now, completely drowned out by a distortion so strong that it sounds similar to a swarm of wasps circling inside my mind. As to better fit the more limited amount of tracks with a far longer duration, this distortion and noise is unrelenting and continuous. It truly feels like an unending musical nightmare.

The next version of “Post Awareness Confusion” presents the distortion of sound in a different way. Instead of a relentless noise drowning out anything remotely musical, we get a set of melodies so mashed up and jumbled that they have lost the sense of being melodic all-together. None of it makes any sense together, but it still manifests that way. There was an abundance of rifts and pauses in the sound too, which only adds to this intense sense of confusion, before the unbearable storm of distorted noise makes a return towards the end of this second track.

I was intrigued as to why the third track was named differently to the rest of them, let alone carrying the name of “Temporary Bliss State”. On the contrary, however, this didn’t sound at all blissful. What I got here instead, was a spine chilling and inconsistent set of scraping, glass-like melodies. However, this title may instead be pointing to the “bliss” of complete surrender; not trying to set oneself up for intense confusion, and instead give in. Furthermore, this may be a foreshadowing of later stages, but I’d have to wait and see.

Returning to “Post Awareness Confusions” on the final track of this stage. Things return to an unmistakably distorted state, but interestingly this incoherent noise seems to manifest itself into a completely new kind of sound, one to replace the initial melodies, and a representation of the force that replaces memories with chaotic confusion. Concluding with a vast and echoing sound that felt similar to the one I heard at the end of stage three, perhaps this too may be a foreshadowing of sorts.

I feel that the drastic nature of this stage really helps the post-awareness stages stand out from the stages that predate it, as indeed this is the first of the post-awareness stages, with a soundscape that almost feels deep on an obscuring level. Furthermore, I feel that it grimly presents the idea that as the listener, we are in the mind of a sufferer who is now beyond saving.

Stage 5 | 03:36:12–05:04:31

“Post-Awareness Stage 5 confusions and horror. More extreme entanglements, repetition and rupture can give way to calmer moments. The unfamiliar may sound and feel familiar. Time is often spent only in the moment leading to isolation.”

It was quite frightening how stage 5 begins, with its post awareness distortion being much more startling and intense than before.

This stage carries a similar aspect to stage 4 in regards to its tracks. With stage 5 carrying another four extensive tracks, the first two of these share the same name of “Advanced plaque entanglements”.

The first of these two tracks definitely carried through the idea of entanglement convincingly enough for me. The sound of this opening track is completely indistinguishable. And with the screeches and intense crackle that it carries, it is intensely unnerving. However, there are still scarce melodies that come across as completely crushed within the violent noise. It definitely reflected my belief that at this point, this is the most uncomfortable of the stages thus far, which you could argue is a reflection of the discomfort that comes with the chaos of Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

Towards the end of this first track of stage 5, I noticed what faintly sounded like gunshots, along with a muffled voice, and what could have either been extremely intense crackle or the sound of marching. I pondered whether this may be a representation of the not-so-glorious memories of old, and at a stretch, even PTSD.

The second track serves as a continuation of this intense and entangled chaos. And while it isn’t anything incredibly new at this point in the project, this track is one of the easiest to compare to the idea of trying to tune an old television, sifting through the static, in search for a channel, which in this metaphorical sense would represent a semblance of certainty. But in the case of this track, things feel far more bleak. It is all static, and only static to be found; static sound that paints a portrait of pure confusion and bewilderment.

The third track of stage 5, “Synapse retrogenesis” feels like a return of the echoing ambience found towards the end of both stage 3 and stage 4, but it returns with more intensity and intimidation behind it; a more menacing rendition of what feels like a musical representation of complete surrender.

This echoing ambience, however, is slowly but surely replaced by the mostrous static noise, representing the idea that this nightmarish confusion is close to inescapable. It feels truly depressing to have the track end this way after how it began.

Arguably the most distorted and chaotic part of this project thus far would have to be the final track of stage 5 “Sudden time regression into isolation”. Sudden pauses, melodies that are mashed up to the point that they are no longer melodic, buzzing noise, and even an unnerving and repetitive noise of what sounds like cheering and clapping. And while that last aspect of this track feels completely out of place, pretty much every part of this track feels out of place; none of it is truly in place.

It most certainly feels like a despair-ridden final moment, before reaching the sixth and final stage of Everywhere At The End Of Time. Within the second half of this final track, I was faced with some of the longest and most ominous pauses in the project’s entirety to this point. It felt like an incredibly ominous foreshadowing of what I could expect from stage 6.

I honestly found myself struggling more with writing about this stage; I noticed myself tripping over my own words, having to correct errors, and running into other minor problems. And I feel that this may be as a result of stage 5’s effect that comes as a result of portraying Alzheimer’s so deeply. It is almost as if I understood what this project is portraying, to the point where I could sense it affecting what was happening outside of the sound itself; I could almost feel what this project has been portraying. The element of this project, and in particular stage 5, being able to affect my own sense of control, simply through its unrelenting and unwavering sound, transcends the idea of being impactful.

Stage 6 | 05:04:32 — 06:30:31

Post-Awareness Stage 6 is without description.

It truly felt like the final frontier when entering stage 6. Even comparing the unwavering sound between the final track of stage 5, and the first track of stage 6, titled “A confusion so thick you forget forgetting”. The thick confusion that the title suggest was definitely felt by myself when listening to stage 6’s opener. It felt as if I had sunk into the deepest abyss, which I would never be able to escape.

When comparing what this opener is portraying to a real-life case of memory loss, this would be the point where the state of mind has completely deteriorated into a deep void which is impossible to navigate. And thus, it felt very hard for me to navigate my way through this track; all I could do was drift through it, as one would drift into the empty shell that is a mind without memory.

In the following track “A brutal bliss beyond this empty defeat”, this musical representation of nothingness that suffocates stage 6 so thoroughly carries far more weight and intensity this time around. It almost felt as if the sound itself was pressing hard against my own mind, trying to force its way in and forcing me to feel what it’s representation.

I was also presented with a few different flavours of abysmal noise in this second track, and I found it pretty tragic that any semblance of what I had heard in the earlier stages was crackle and nothing else. It was really becoming apparent to me, just how much of a musical wasteland this stage came across as; one that clearly represented the complete deterioration of the mind disturbingly well.

Furthermore, stage 6 felt like the most consistently similar and repetitive out of all six stages, in regards to its tracks. But this was clearly intentional. All sensations have merged into one oblivion. The brain’s capacity to differentiate one thing from another has been destroyed.

Pointing more directly towards the end of the project, and perhaps the end of consciousness with the complete destruction of the mind, the third track “Long decline is over” carries a number of incredibly ominous pauses. This hauntingly represents how the mind is beginning to completely fail to work, as a result of deterioration.

And finally, I reach the final track of Everywhere At The End Of Time, titled “Place in the World fades away”. It is quite frankly one of the most convincing musical representations of emptiness and the void I have ever heard.

I shuddered to find this final track begin with such an absence of sound. But following this, we get extremely faint waves of empty noise; the last few flickers of consciousness. I never thought a track could make me feel as close to dying as “Place in the World fades away”, but I was forced to feel that way by a sound which transcends the idea of being unnerving or ominous. It was able to infiltrate my soul with no effort.

Have you ever listened to a track that really made you feel something? I’m sure most of you at least feel like you have. Have you ever listened to a track that made you feel completely hollow? As hollow as a mind with no memory or consciousness? If you’ve already listened to “Place in the World fades away”, then you know that you have.

This track, and the project as a whole, hauntingly ends with one more melody. What sounds like a choir harmony that’s been heavily fuzzed, it oddly feels like a welcome end to Everywhere At the End Of Time.

Conclusion

First of all, I wanted to give a massive thanks to vvmtest for uploading the entire project to YouTube, and being my main point of reference for this article. Please go ahead and subscribe to their channel.

But I also wanted to bring this video up, as there was a comment I found for that video which roughly read “I met my grandmother, but she never met me”. And that felt like the most fitting way to tie this project together, especially when considering how it brought me closer to my own grandparent, and understanding the torment they must have been going through. I can at least take comfort in knowing that they are in a more peaceful place now.

It almost feels ironic that Everywhere At The End Of Time is a musical journey of the progression of memory loss, as I frankly feel that it is an unforgettable project.

Listen to Everywhere At The End Of Time on Bandcamp

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Joe Boothby

Joe Boothby

My articles mainly revolve around music reviews and analysis. A bit like Anthony Fantano, but just a decade behind.

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