Author: JB Mellin
I’ve had brushes with long albums before. Even a few of my favorite albums have longer-than-average runtimes: Double Nickels On The Dime by Minutemen, Sea of Bliss by Don Slepian, Lift Your Skinny Fists by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, This Is a Long Drive by Modest Mouse. All have run times of over an hour, sometimes by more than 30 minutes. That being said, I don’t actively celebrate a new record coming in at over an hour. To me, it can often lead to agonizing lulls and senseless filler songs in otherwise-fabulous albums, which is always disappointing.
It’s because of this that I decided to reach out and find new music that challenged my very formulaic sense of how long a typically good album should be. What I found was an album, or more of a set of albums, titled Everywhere at the End of Time.
Everywhere at the End of Time was created by The Caretaker, an experimental/electronic/drone artist whose music is obsessed with the concept of memory. His albums are conceptual in this manner, tackling complex conditions like anterograde amnesia, dementia and Alzheimers through the lens of music. Everywhere at the End of Time is an album that runs at just over six and half hours and specifically explores a dementia patient’s horrifying decline into complete memory loss and eventual death.
The Caretaker begins the album with Stage 1, exploring the notable, often cheerful and life-affirming response that dementia patients have when re-introduced to music they loved in their own lifetimes. The music in this section is relatively cheerful, filled with slightly warped and crackly samples of Dixieland-era songs. In the narrative created by The Caretaker the first signs of memory loss have now appeared, but the patient is still capable of looking back on their glory days like they were a beautiful daydream.
Stage 2 is when the patient begins to realize that there is a problem. The same blissful memories experienced in Stage 1 are grey and hazy, and become harder and harder to reach as the inescapability of dementia sets in. The music is similar to Stage 1 but has become even more warped: tracks skip back and forth and samples are re-used to mimic the loss of memory.
Stage 3 is completely clouded by confusion. The patient can recall some of their greatest memories and achievements, but the space and time between them is dark and foggy. There are distinct moments of clarity in the music, but much of it is obstructed by static, crackling and skipping.
The fourth stage is where post-awareness begins, and memories begin to become nearly indistinguishable from each other. Inability to recall specific memories is a terrifying reality that the patient has begun to inhabit. There are brief, sweet moments of lucidity, but they are simply a blip on an otherwise downward trajectory to nothingness. The patient is now experiencing the full horror of memory loss. The music is terrifying, clouded by erratic bouts of static and continuous droning, with small snippets of unrecognizable music chiming in and out of the deep grey.
The patient is now in Stage 5, characterized by repetition and loss of time. The unfamiliar and the familiar meet, entangling themselves in one another. The patient forgets themselves. Time is no longer spent. The once-pleasant music has transformed into a throbbing abomination of loud static and nightmarish voices. The calmer moments shrink, then completely disappear.
Stage 6 is completely post-awareness. A dark, thick, and unmoving fog has settled over the memory of the patient. They can no longer communicate; everything and nothing is familiar. The bliss is brutal, the patient is empty and defeated. The downward trajectory has slowed. The patient’s eyes grow dim until there is nothing left. Stage 6’s music is a monotonous, heavy drone soaked in dread and death.
After listening to the entire album, I have to say that I’m incredibly impressed with The Caretaker. Everywhere at the End of Time lives up fully to it’s horrific, beautiful descriptions by many critics. The music is euphoric and nostalgic, managing to transition perfectly from stage to stage. Minute by minute, there don’t seem to be any changes. The experience is gradual, just how memory loss takes hold. The music doesn’t go from euphoric to horrifying in less than a minute, it takes hours to eventually deteriorate and give way to the unavoidable dread and disquiet of the post-awareness stages.
The experience The Caretaker creates on this set of albums is unlike anything I’ve ever run into before. It’s melancholic and serene at the beginning, but the sense of decline is always present. This isn’t one of those albums that you can put on and go walk around listening to; Everywhere at the End of Time requires your full attention. I tried doing homework to the album a few times, but oftentimes I found myself distracted by either the melodies of the first few stages, or the nightmarish and disorienting noise of the post-awareness stages.
Ultimately, Everywhere at the End of Time forces you to reflect on your own memory and shows the listener just how terrifying it is to lose it. We live through our memory; there would be no concept of today if yesterday didn’t exist. We exist because we remember, and in Everywhere at the End of Time, The Caretaker reveals to us just how dementia destroys that existence.
JB Mellin | Alexa, play Everywhere- | KXSU Music Reporter