The Caretaker A Stairway Review

Released 2002.  

BBC Review

Play it with the lights down low and let the spirits enjoy it with you.

Olli Siebelt 2002

Think of the most adventurous, albeit grinding records imaginable and chances are you're probably thinking about v/Vm or their label v/VmTest Records. Sounding a bit like Kid 606 through a distortion pedal played through a Marshall amp at 11, it's generally time to fasten your seatbelts when slipping a new v/Vm release into the CD player.

Not this time.

Developing the sound established on the debut Caretaker release three years ago, A Stairway To Stars is a collection of old ballroom and dance 78rpm records released anywhere between 1920 and 1940 which have been manipulated, slowed down and re-sampled into beautifully creepy ambient pieces which while instantly recognisable, are completely original in both their construction and feel.

On this superb second release, The Caretaker has taken what may seem to be a pretty rudimentary piece of audio manipulation and has turned it into a wonderfully imaginative concept that is both deliciously spooky and hauntingly beautiful. Loads of people (eg: Skinny Puppy, Will, Cold Meat Industry, etc..) have tried their hand at stuff like this before, but this goes much further than your typical gothic or darkwave record. I cant quite put my finger on exactly what it is, but something really interesting happens when these sources are manipulated like this. Nuances and timbres come out which tickle the ear drums in a very unique way, giving one not a sense of relief, but one of distinct unease or even dread, especially when listening on headphones.

Tracks like We Cannot Escape The Past and Emptiness really embrace this otherworldly feeling, bringing to life a world of black tie and top hat, mediums and crystal balls. It often seems that several ghosts have suddenly entered the room to partake in the listening experience with you. Yet, while some of it is certainly creepy, there is some astonishing beauty here as well. Tracks like Robins and Roses and the title track Stairway To The Stars are reversed, re-sampled, and pitch shifted into something so lovely that it would make even Dani from Cradle of Filth crack a smile.

Find it. Buy it. Play it with the lights down low and let the spirits enjoy it with you. Stairway To The Stars is a truly wonderful little gem that will have you dancing in the haunted ballroom, over and over again.

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