Boasts an emotional, melancholic undertow so accomplished it shames other ambient LPs.
Louis Pattison 2009
Leyland Kirby broke cover back in the mid-90s as the sinister music intelligence behind V/VM, an anarchic music project-cum-production house that specialised in feeding kitsch pop hits – Chris De Burgh’s Lady in Red, Robbie Williams’ Angels, and so on – though a grisly sonic mincer. The results came out sounding like the karaoke booth of your worst nightmares, humorous and nauseous in equal measure, but you had to admire Kirby’s dedication to the cause: he certainly knew how to turn your stomach and put a smile on your face at the same time.
Kirby’s debut album under his own name comes after a spell recording as The Caretaker, which with the benefit of hindsight, feels a little like a bridge between where he was then and where he is now. Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, The Caretaker’s early music was built from antique ballroom dance 78s, often heavily treated, pitched to alien speeds and fighting through ghostly curtains of reverb. And indeed, Sadly, the Future Is No Longer What It Was (a trilogy, available as digital download, triple CD or, for the moneybags, six platters of vinyl) shares something of The Caretaker’s drifting, ethereal feel, existing in a sort of liminal, dream-like realm where time passes slowly and signposts melt into the fog.
But this collection feels like a step on from The Caretaker, as well. Colours are sharper, the emotional content is broader, and often the fog falls away to reveal the surprising fact that Kirby happens to be a pianist of some note. On When We Parted, My Heart Wanted to Die (Friedrichshain Memory), elegiac piano and synthesised strings rise gently over a sea of vacuum hums and static crackle, and while there’s clearly no finger hovering over the edit button – the track billows out to 15 minutes in length – there’s little feel of stasis or torpor.
It’s ambient music, yes – but Sadly, the Future Is No Longer What It Was boasts an emotional, melancholic undertow so accomplished it shames many other examples of the form.