Most of my musically discoveries are made on YouTube. I don’t have any streaming subscriptions and found there to be a pretty good selection of weird tracks posted on YouTube by artists and their fans. It was in the “up next ” sidebar I first spotted An Empty Bliss Beyond This World, an album by The Cartaker a.k.a. Leyland Kirby. I was drawn in by the sleave art by Ivan Seal (his disturbing paintings always capture the tone and character of Kirby’s music perfectly) and those first few reverb-ed brassy notes of All You’re Going To Want To Do Is Get back There.
Around the same time and through conversations with members of The Retro Bar I was also introduced to Mark Fisher’s books on cultural theory and was particularly captivated by The Weird and The Eerie and Ghosts of My Life (for reasons I’ll cover in a future post). This is a Weird coincidence as Fisher and Kirby were clearly very interested in one another’s work, Kirby released a charity track in 2017 in Fisher’s memory a year on from this death. The Quietus, who have long been tracking Leyland’s rising career wrote this article analysing the conditions of “Take care. It’s a desert out there…”
In an interview with The Caretaker for the June 2009 edition of The Wire magazine, Fisher rightly hails the musical genius of Bleaklow, an album created by Kirby under the alias The Stranger. Much of what The Caretaker composes is hauntological, being concerned with memory loss, recall and foregone cultural moments which echo endlessly into the present. Bleaklow however, is more concerned with place– specifically the moors around Bleaklow in North Derbyshire, a 30 minute drive from my front door in Sheffield.
I made this discovery late last week and began toying with the idea of buying Bleaklow and listening to it for the first time in the landscape that inspired it– Bleaklow itself. Yesterday as I was voicing this idea, I decided to pick an auspicious day in which to perform this walk on the moors. It was then I realised that tomorrow (i.e. today, 9th April 2018) would be 10 years to the day that Bleaklow was released on Bandcamp by The Stranger. An utterly Weird coincidence.
Driving by Lady Bower Lake and through Snake’s Pass we turned on the radio adapter and began the album so that the low, spectral moans of “Something to do with death” wafted out the car speakers. We parked up and began our walk, listening to “Exposure” on headphones as the rythmic thuds and airy, spacious drones danced on the dead heather in time with our steps. The rest of the album is equally spell-binding however we only made it so far before succumbing to hunger and doubling back in search of a pub lunch. Nonetheless it was a totally engrossing way to appreciate this accomplished musical work for the first time: Walking on and on, seemingly forever, occasionally punctuated by stops to appreciate the ectoplasmic frogspawn bobbing in the ferrous-red streams or the ghostly snow-mounds stuffed like shadows into the corners of the moor.