petak, 8. studenoga 2013.

The Stranger - Watching Dead Empires in Decay (2013)


Najnovije utjelovljenje čudesnog Leylanda Kirbyja (V/VM, The Caretaker). Ruševine stvaraju nove građevine.


The Stanger’s Watching Dead Empires In Decay is out now via Modern Love

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In the beginnings of civilization, we made buildings out of stone. Our ancestors craved permanence, immortality. Of course, those empires fell, leaving behind monuments of their own former magnificence and its passage, scarred by memory so subject to fabrication and forgetting, into myth or history, almost all but those etched into hermetic tombs buried in the sands of time. Still, from time to time, we uncover objects of utility from their resting places in the earth: broken jars, curse tablets, currency. “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” said Ozymandias, former king of kings, resting his cracked statue head on the arid, level sands.
Already the most imperishable pieces of Western civilization’s industrial history accumulate the same scars, and already some rust and crumble, to be recovered perhaps by some future historian. Modern empires rarely offer the luxury of exodus as they lie at the endpoints of their history; there is nowhere else to go. But our records afford us an ability to inscribe a more permanent witnessing of what we were and how each piece succumbed to an environment we had once thought was the victim. What, in its obsolescence, will remain as evidence? James Leyland Kirby’s The Stranger project, from a cold future consciousness, tracks the audible signals of the decay of the old, industrial empires, recording and imitating the rhythmic coldness of their machinery, locating the listener in the midst of the decline.
Ruined industrial wastes make for beautiful photographs; the viewer, utterly alienated from the utility of the machine, can witness it as a pure object, exposed to corrosive weather and mechanical failure. The sounds of the factory offer the same monumental abstraction, and they too evoke the beautiful gloom of the exhaustion of human endeavor. It’s these inhuman sounds (though quite often Kirby makes them with his own hands, here) that fill Watching Dead Empires In Decay: percussion at slow but regular intervals, groaning hulks, friction of metal on metal. By our very estrangement from our civilization’s own creations, indeed, even its own processes of manufacturing, we already stand in a future where the objects that build our world may become mere artifacts, memories adorning our museums, colossi laying at the periphery of our cities, rotting.
Whereas his work as The Caretaker focused on memory inside the person and its loss (especially on, for instance, Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia), The Stranger focuses on the external indications of loss. Last year’s Patience (After Sebald) soundtrack evoked malformed memories of old tunes, gauzy reflections of past experiences. Watching Dead Empires In Decay is much more immediate: the machines still seem to be running, regardless of our attention. It surrounds the listener in its bleak soundscape, in many ways more appropriately “ambient” than The Caretaker’s recordings, though no doubt more insistent and rhythmic. As Kirby stated in our interview with him in 2011, The Stranger is a kind of bridge between V/Vm and The Caretaker, taking up the center of the spectrum between unbridled noise and controlled, calm piano loops.
Although Watching Dead Empires In Decay lacks content other than song titles, it evokes spaces that need no explanation — they already feel like future casualties of decline, though they still throb with a kind of life. These spaces are cold to our presence, only giving us the opportunity to understand them in our alienation from them. Fabricated evidence of a decline though they may be, these tracks do not reveal much within us except in how we react to them. Their gloominess, despite moments of beauty, is deeply oppressive. But perhaps this is the stage of history we are entering, in which the forces we once used to shape our destiny now succumb uncontrollably to entropy. And we, powerless, stand and fearfully witness the permanent waste, the consequences, left behind. - 

Just as you think you’ve fathomed James Kirby, along he comes to surprise you once again. I was ready to consider The Caretaker project Kirby’s greatest achievement. But listening to this astonishing new album from his avatar The Stranger—and relistening to its predecessor 2008’s Bleaklow—might make me re-assess that judgment.
Kirby is perhaps better understood as an artist than a musician—and, viewed as such, his work should shame the banality, the affectlessness and the conceptual poverty of so much contemporary art. If only contemporary art could come up with a concept as rich as The Caretaker’s Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia—in essence, an installation simulating a memory disorder in the form of a six-CD box set. Part of the power of The Caretaker conceit—a collection of music that might have been made for The Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining—derived from its simplicity. But Kirby complexified and deepened the project with each release, until it has become an ongoing exploration of memory (and its disorders), and the relationship between place, sound, and the psyche. The Stranger project is very different, although related. Here, place comes to the fore. But these aren’t the interior spaces haunted by The Caretaker—the ornate decay of grand old hotels fallen into decline, their genteel collapse doubling the inner space of the brain itself, as it succumbs to various forms of neurological collapse. Instead, it is outer spaces that The Stranger surveys: terrains beyond human habitation, terrains which humans can only visit, where they go to lose themselves or where they end up getting lost, or where, most horrifyingly, they are buried, never to be found again, like poor Keith Bennett, one of the victims of Britain’s most notorious killers, Ian Brady and Myra Lindley. The Stranger walks us over these lonely moorlands, subterranean cave systems, crags.
On the two Stranger records, Kirby offers a new sonic-cartographic study of what my collaborator and comrade Justin Barton has called the Eerie North West of England. The Eerie North West covers a geographical and psycho-cultural terrain that includes a number of intense hubs. There’s Manchester, the hobgoblin-stalked industrial hinterland evoked by the early Fall. Then there’s nearby rural Cheshire—that county’s Alderley Edge was reputed to be a place where witches would meet, and it was the setting of Alan Garner’s children’s fantasy novel, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. Chesire was also the site of the geo-chrono-trauma traced in Garner’s later, cryptically harrowing, novel Red Shift, as well as being the place where members of Joy Division grew up, its moors channelled into the desolated sense of space that they and Martin Hannet brought to Unknown Pleasures and Closer. And then there is North Wales, which is at the heart of Garner’s The Owl Service and the novels of Niall Griffiths.
What I was most reminded of when I initially heard Watching Dead Empires in Decay was Raime. There is the same (double) sense of seeing a space evacuated of humans, with non-human eyes. The same eerie intuition that we are tracking some illegible catastrophe, walking through the ruins of a trauma that happened long ago (whose is the empire that has died? Is it even that of a human group?) The same merging of dance-music dynamics with ambient atmospherics. But of course—Kirby is ahead of the game as usual—Bleaklow preceded Raime, and now he reclaims the territory he established on the 2008 record, so that The Stranger forms a kind of eerie predecessor and twin of Raime’s work.
If you position it as an ambient record, Watching Dead Empires In Decay can be heard as engaging with the ambient concept that Eno laid down with On Land. Eno’s title could be read as an essayistic proposition—this was a record about land, and here we are confronted with the doubleness of the ambient concept, as Eno originally thought of it: ambient was about ambience, about the power of space, and the translation of that power into sound; and it was also meant to be heard as an ambience, as background rather than foreground music. Watching Dead Empires In Decay is far too visceral, too rhythmically insistent, to be ambient in that second sense. As with some of Raime’s tracks, Watching Dead Empires suggests some improbable reconciliation of post-Basic Channel machine-dub and early Swans. “Where Are Our Monsters Now, Where Are Our Friends” actually sounds like an eighties time capsule that is in the process of being unearthed, its contents having merged and mutated while underground, producing a strange hybrid of Cop-era Swans and Sylvian & Sakamoto. With its scrapings, ominous chimes and sounds of earth crumbling underfoot, the opener “We Are Enemies But Not Here”, meanwhile, feels like it takes place either in some vast troglodytic cavern—the space where some awesome ritual happened, or is now happening, perhaps—or high atop some wind-blasted hillside. The 23 Skidoo-like loping Neolithic funk of “So Pale It Shone In The Night”, meanwhile, makes one think of the underground railway system in The Weirdstone of Brisingamen.

The persona Kirby constructed in the days of V/VM—ducker and diver, the mocker and prankster— can sometimes distract (perhaps it is intended to) from the intense lyricism, the keening beauty, of his audio-productions. The beauty in Watching Dead Empires In Decay is not the sweetness of melodies on the brink of being forgotten (or remembered), as with The Caretaker—it is the beauty of rhythm and atmosphere, the dread-ful beauty of eerie spaces. But dread here does not necessarily mean we are in the presence of something horrific—it means confronting something outside the standard frames of human reference. Certainly, the heaths and moors of the Eerie North West have been the sites for atrocities. But they are also spaces where we feel the pull of the alien and the unknown—spaces which, like all of the best products of the Eerie North West, Watching Dead Empires In Decay renders as both ominous and seductive. ~ Mark Fisher

The Stranger is James Leyland Kirby, also known as The Caretaker. CD Housed in Deluxe 6-Panel Digifile* Polymath James Leyland Kirby must surely have one of the most confounding CV’s in the business: he spent years taking the piss out of the music industry with anthems rallying against the (VV)MCPS, he notoriously fell out with various well known record labels for reasons you’ll just have to google, goaded Aphex Twin with a series of ‘tributes’ and channelled his love of everything from Falco (Rock Me Amadeus), Chris De Burgh, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Stockport karaoke nights into a stream of increasingly bizzare 7”s back in the early noughties. But at the same time he was responsible for releasing some of the very earliest material from Boards of Canada (Hell Interface: 1997), made a ruck of frankly groundbreaking industrial electronic records, brought New Beat to the world’s attention and, in 1999, made his first album as The Caretaker, a project that would go on to release some of the most loved Ambient/ Lynchian albums of recent times. Since then he’s also produced an incredible suite of releases under his own name, scored various film projects and released three EP’s under the ‘Intrigue & Stuff’ banner which are, for our money, so ahead of their time they might just start sinking in properly by the end of the decade. All of which brings us to ‘Watching Dead Empires in Decay’, a new album recorded under another of Kirby’s pseudonyms ‘The Stranger’ and released on Modern Love, a label that has been close to Kirby through these last eventful 15 years. It’s a dream album for the label: perhaps the most ambitious of Kirby’s career so far. It’s complex, singular, enigmatic, percussive, dark, and you just can’t work out how it was constructed. Gone are the sampled 78’s of The Caretaker, but it also doesnt exactly sound electronic - you just can’t quite fathom how any of it was put together: Field Recordings? Found Sounds? Sheets of metal scraped and hammered? Drum machines re-wired? It’s stark and unsettling, haunted, even troubling - but often just beautiful. It starts with the sharp clang of opener ‘We Are Enemies But Not Here’ before the woozy percussive crawl ‘So Pale It Shone In The Night’ sucks you into a bare landscape: somewhere between Eraserhead and Fumio Hayasaka’s music for Akira Kurosawa. And then there are moments that break through the tension with clarity and familiarity, nostalgia even: ‘Where Are Our Monsters Now, Where Are Our Friends?’ could have been made by Boards of Canada if they had taken a turn into more noxious terrain back in 1998, while ‘Spiral Of Decline’ offsets the drum programming you’d most likely associate with a Powell record with an oblique sense of timing and space. It all ends with ‘About To Enter A Strange New Period’, an unusual, vaporous coda that offers no resolution - it just shuts proceedings down with nothing settled. - boomkat

Bleaklow (2008)

Aside from all the shenanigans and sonic mayhem V/VM have so brilliantly provided over the last 10 years, James Kirby has also intermittently released quite exceptionally dense music under his Caretaker and The Stranger monikers. This new album, however, qualifies as his most absorbing and fully realised yet - an 11 track arrangement of unbelievably layered drones, sound washes and percussive structures that will leave you wondering just what else might be lurking in V/VM's no-doubt substantial archives. The album opens with the suitably bleak "Something To Do With Death" - a haunting assembly of distorted drones and sonic detritus that sounds like a cross between Ben Frost, Fennesz and Hecker - and makes for an astonishing opening. "Exposure" is next and delivers what must surely count as one of the most brilliantly approachable pieces in the V/VM cannon, displaying a spacious alignment of padded percussion and brushed tonal slivers that you could almost imagine Martin Gore having produced on one of his more satisfyingly creative periods writing daring b-sides for Depeche Mode. "Solemn Dedication" also features a prominent percussive element, though this time the carefully crafted bombast recalls vintage John Carpenter, with those slightly plasticated drum sounds beautifully aligned and distorted to create an almost nihilistic mental image - and in this case one that's surrounded by tempered noise that lends proceedings a brilliantly freakish glow. The title track, meanwhile, will leave you gasping for breath with its eerie, out of tune strings and lush undulating drones, creating a kind of narcotic cacophony that doesn't really sound like anyone that comes to mind, except perhaps for some kind of fantasy collaboration between Selected Ambient Works Volume 2 era Aphex Twin reworked by Tim Hecker. "Bleaklow" is a deep and incredibly satisfying album - perhaps more so than any other releases on this frankly mental label - and once your surprise starts to subside you're left with the unerring impression that James Kirby is one of the most interesting and diverse producers working on the scene today. Highly Recommended.  - boomkat

V/VM | The Caretaker interview by Shaun Prescott

Despite a baffling work rate which has seen V/VM release more material over twelve years than any listener could reasonably be expected to digest in a lifetime, James Kirby is surprised and faintly miffed by the resurgent interest in his output thanks to The Caretaker. Ironically, it was the release of The Caretaker’s 2008 album Persistent Repetition of Phrases which attracted the most acclaim Kirby has experienced for years, yet it was also one of the few works he has created that was outsourced to a label other than the one he helms himself, V/VM Test.
“The label (US based label Installsound) only pressed 500 and we didn’t do any promo whatsoever, so I have no idea why so many people enjoyed that.” Kirby is speaking from his home in Berlin, where he moved to from Stockport – near Manchester – two and a half years ago. “The album was getting in all these lists at the end of the year like Wire magazine. It’s very strange, because Wire hasn’t reviewed V/VM in a long time.”
V/VM Test has hosted a vast palette of musical styles, ranging from Belgian New Beat tributes to skewed appropriations of MOR rock (miraculously only once resulting in legal action), but Kirby’s music has always been overshadowed by his notoriety. In a climate where sage intellectualism dominates most experimental electronic music, Kirby is perhaps just too weird. Artistically speaking, Kirby is fearless, often to the detriment of his work being taken seriously. The music can be horribly technicoloured and garish as on V/VM’s 2000 album Sick Love – which siphoned any feeling of ‘love’ from popular love songs – or minimal, multi-faceted and melancholic, as with his The Caretaker and The Stranger projects. To detail every crest and trough of Kirby’s output here would be impossible. But so prolific is he that for listeners and critics who dip their toes into a particularly arcane spot in his oeuvre, they’ll often be scared away from another project that might be more palatable to their tastes.
One of Kirby’s most ambitious projects was the V/VM 365 project, which saw him release one track for each day of 2006, released daily as a free download on the V/VM website and accompanied by a short description of his day, often resulting in some hilariously candid tales of touring, recording and excessive drinking. Kirby ended up recording 602 tracks over that period despite a year-long flu, a move from England to Berlin, a world tour and a dislocated knee thanks to one of his famously demented V/VM live shows. “I was rolling around this venue and ended up rolling down a flight of stairs and dislocating my knee, which was quite painful,” Kirby recalls. “I had to bang the knee back into place and carry on with the show. I had a friend playing with me and he sliced his hand open at the same show. It was a real mess. A great, great show.”
“The shows were anti ‘we’re-gonna-stand-behind-this-laptop-and-be-really-intricate,’” he says of the V/VM live shows. “It gets so boring. I remember being at the Sonar festival in Barcelona and that year [1999] was when playing a laptop was really going off. But the V/VM show involved miming songs and jumping around, and it made an impact. Up to that point it was just guys in front of laptops staring at the screen.”
Sifting through various free downloads and physical V/VM releases, it’s understandable why Kirby has always been on the periphery of critical acceptance. There’s a belligerence towards expectations, a defiance of how ‘real’ music should be packaged and consumed, and again, an inscrutable freakishness that is difficult to critically navigate. Kirby has always worked in earnest, producing works at such a rate that an observer barely has a chance to deconstruct one and discover its real purpose before another release arrives to contradict it.
But since January this year, V/VM Test is over. Much of its output will stay available on the internet, where it has been amassing over the course of a decade. “I don’t think there’s much need for record labels these days,” Kirby says of the closure. “They’ve served their purpose. We’re in a different time now, you can create things without it being labelled. As a vehicle it reached its end destination and it’s time to try something else.” Kirby will continue to release material independently, though the success of last year’s Caretaker album Persistent Repetition of Phrases was more successful, he believes, because it wasn’t released on V/VM Test. “I think people just misunderstood a lot of things [related to V/VM Test]. They get a general idea from one thing that’s done. A lot of the stuff that I released just disappeared, it just got missed. Whereas other things got a lot of attention and some things got heaps.”
“It’s huge. Even for me it’s crazy. I was looking at [the V/VM output] the other day and I thought ‘what can I do with this’. It’s too big. It’’s gotten really confusing for people. To re-focus people on some new things it’s necessary to put that whole thing in the background as some kind of archive. And just work on some new things and see what happens from there.”
The Caretaker is currently Kirby’s most popular project, partially thanks to recent discourse triggered by critics Mark Fisher (aka K-Punk) and Simon Reynolds, who count The Caretaker among a handful of key artists and labels who fit into the concept of Hauntology as it relates to music. The word, originally coined by Jacques Derrida to describe the spectral persistence of revolutionary ideals in the wake of the ‘end of history’ (post 1989, post Cold War), applies to music that borrows from the past; styles that – like The Caretaker’s comatose and reverb-drenched ballroom appropriations – project a sense of being haunted by past ideals. In a musical climate where real revolutions in style and performance seem impossible, the concept follows that artists of The Caretaker’s ilk align themselves aesthetically with sonic worlds long considered past their used by date, styles that embody a particular era and were quickly usurped or forgotten. There’s also a sense of unfinished business: of finding the real potential in these largely forgotten ideas and breathing new life into them.
The Caretaker was birthed by Kirby’s fascination with the ballroom scene in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. During the scene, Jack Nicholson’s character – in an anger-fuelled malaise – enters an empty ballroom which suddenly becomes populated by ghostly dancers revelling to the sound of 1920s-1930s ballroom music. While Kirby traces his fascination with the style further back than his first experience with The Shining, that scene was integral to The Caretaker mode of operation, which sees him plundering old ballroom 78s, drenching them in reverb, slowing them down, looping vital melodic motifs and bringing the crackle and decay of the vinyl to the forefront of the mix.
“If you listen to the source material without it being affected it has these really strange moods.” Kirby says. “[This music] was popular between the two world wars, and there’s a lot of loss in these songs. A lot of people went to war and never came back and so a lot of the songs and lyrics are very dark from this time, and it comes through in the music. As soon as you start messing around with it you get these feelings just from the tracks themselves [before manipulation].”
“It was a strange time in Europe back then, so a lot of the music I’ve used is European. Of course there’s a lot of American stuff from the same time but it doesn’t seem to have this ghostly theme. If you listen to a lot of the lyrics there’s a lot about ghosts – they talk a lot about loss and ghosts, it’s a constant theme in this music.”
Kirby cites Albert Allick Bowlly, a South African born British jazz singer of the era as one of his favourite artists in the canon. Al Bowlly sang the song ‘Midnight The Stars In You’, which scored the final scene in The Shining. “He’s great,” Kirby enthuses, “[His stuff is] easy to find and cheap. He was the best singer of that whole era but he died in the Blitz in London, a bomb landed on his doorstep. They reckon he would have been bigger than Bing Crosby because he had the best voice.”
“He had a very haunting voice.” He continues. “He’s the guy that sang in the last scene in The Shining, the one that finishes the film. That was a very difficult record to find for a long time because Kubrick bought the rights to that song and it disappeared. I managed to find it on a 78 and I was very lucky. It was very cheap too, a two pounds purchase in mint condition.”
Kirby released three albums of disorientating, melancholic ballroom mutations concerned with memory before changing tact with 2006′s Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia. This 6CD set – still available for free download but also packaged in a limited boxset – uses the mental illness of Anterograde Amnesia as its theme: a form of amnesia where the sufferer retains all memories previous to procuring the ailment, but nothing thereafter.
Sonically, …Anterograde Amnesia consists of hardly audible, oblique smudges of sound and ambience, infrequently blossoming into discernible melody. The purpose of the album is to emulate the disorientation of memory loss. Describing the mechanics of the project, Kirby says the release is “confusing because the tracks aren’t numbered, but are all of a similar [short] length.” Due to the length and rarity of sonic ‘events’, the listener is unable to make sense of the ebb and flow of sound; repeated listens will not offer coherence. Instead, the album is a gigantic swath of nigh silent darkness punctured by irregular ‘events’, moments – or memories – floating in an otherwise murky and disconnected fug of barely present consciousness.
This release – according to Kirby – was a highlight in The Caretaker’s output, a work that rung up 50,000 (free) downloads and put V/VM back on the critical radar. Since then he’s released outtakes from that project and a vinyl release entitled Deleted Scenes / Forgotten Dreams. But it was his 2008 release Persistent Repetition of Phrases that has attracted the most interest. As much as a Caretaker release can be regarded as ‘accessible’, this latest release would be it. Opening with the bruised and shrouded strains of ‘Lacunar Amnesia’, the album keeps Kirby’s source material just within audible reach so that the mournful, looped melodic refrains lodge themselves in the listener’s consciousness. Like …Anterograde Amnesia, this latest album is conceptually cemented in mental illness. ‘Lacunar Amnesia’ references the complete loss of recollection of one particular moment – or scene – in one’s life, while the track title ‘Past Life Regression’ describes a technique used by hypnotists to conjure in their subjects memories of a past life.
Rather than take a complete track and manipulate it in real time, Kirby says Persistent Repetition of Phrases is built around small melodic moments taken from complete ballroom compositions. “On the last album there’s lots of really short samples [that run for] five or six seconds. Then I take it somewhere else, completely slow it down or make it a lot longer.” Kirby took a similar tact with his ‘Death of Rave’ project. Made available for free through the V/VM Test microsite Vukzid, Kirby manipulated old rave tracks until they resembled a distant emanation from some warehouse many highways and overpasses away, referencing the golden age of UK rave culture that still resonates globally but is buried inaccessible in the past.
While Persistent Repetition of Phrases is Kirby’s most famous work of 2008, he also released an album under the name The Stranger, a monochrome-hued exploration of drowsy electronic textures and stilted, militant beats unyielding to movement or grace. Entitled Bleaklow, and released on V/VM, it’s inspired by an area near his native Stockport. “It’s [based on] these dark hills that surround Manchester.” He says of the location, “I just tried to capture that atmosphere somehow, that damp drizzle. It always rains there, even on sunny days its grey.”
“The name itself [Bleaklow], I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s very bleak up there. The peak district outside of Manchester is about a 30 minute drive out of town. It’s one of the only areas I miss being over here in Berlin, because I don’t miss much about being in England. That area is really nice, it’s quite inspiring.
“For me Bleaklow is a lot stronger than The Caretaker one. It suffers from being on V/VM rather than another label. If it was another label maybe they’d be more reviews. It’s very similar to Caretaker in places but just a little darker.”
It is darker. Unlike The Caretaker, which bears an inherent lightness of touch thanks to the warm, welcoming glow of melancholy – of misplaced nostalgia with no plausible reference point – Bleaklow is unrepentantly captivating; furtive and enervating. This music demands everything of your senses and staunchly refuses to be disposed of into the periphery. ‘Something To Do With Death’ starts the album with an apparitional drone that quickly morphs into a burrowing, cyclical melody, before harsh static and noise presses against the speaker, rising to a monolithic peak. Inside this morass you could identify any number of probably-not-there-sounds. It’s like navigating a dark hall of cobwebs, or trying to find steady ground in darkness thickened with fog.
Fittingly, Bleaklow is essentially the last release for V/VM Test, which shut up shop on the 31st of December, 2008. Forthcoming is a massive 7CD retrospective of the label, which is still in the planning stages. The closure isn’t a death knell for any of Kirby’s current projects however, which will continue being released through other avenues, both independently and through other labels. A new Caretaker album is slated for late 2009/early 2010, but his current project – which will be released under the name Leyland James Kirby, will see the light of day in 2009.
“It’s about life, that track,” Kirby says of the first work to be released under the name, which isn’t publicly available yet but can be found online under the name ‘When We Parted My Heart Wanted To Die’. Like selections from Bleaklow, the track is accompanied by obscured video footage in its online incarnation, and the project is more introspective than most detractors would believe is possible of Kirby. “It’s personal. Sometimes it’s good to get personal, get some more feeling into things.” He says in an offhand fashion. “The people who have seen it had an emotional response to it. The video is an endless walk through Berlin streets, and [the viewer] sees these ghost like figures sometimes that appear and disappear out of view.”
While it’s the end of an era for Kirby, he appears well equipped with ideas to usher in a new one. V/VM Test, afterall, seems to have achieved its purpose. The method of appropriation that V/VM has always ideologically rooted for, the manipulation of existing cultural texts in order to rebirth them in a different light, is not only artistically acceptable now but immensely popular for a new generation native to post-modernist sample wrangling and accessible (and cheap) tools to do so. Even the act of giving music away seems fairly commonplace nowadays.
Kirby is treading a different philosophical path now, and while stylistically it may veer through key elements of popular V/VM tropes, even forthcoming works – not yet put to tape – focus on the loss of an optimistic future, the loss of a time when speculating over the future offered any semblance of excitement or hope.
“I’ve actually been working on an EP,” Kirby says in closing. “You’re going to love the title.” He ruffles briefly through a notebook on the other end of the line before announcing: “Sadly the future is no longer what it was.”
The Stranger’s Bleaklow, as well as the V/VM archives, can be found at

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