In my review of Intrigue & Stuff Vol. 1, I noted that the more rhythmic, pop- and rock-influences might be shocking to followers of Leyland Kirby’s previous work under his own name and as The Caretaker. While Vol. 2 feels more in line with previous efforts, Kirby provides yet another facet of beautiful noise exploration here. Comprised of three songs, two of which clock in at roughly 12 and 20 minutes, respectively, there is a more grandiose framework to this second volume. However, as always in Kirby’s work, it’s the little details in songs that define this artist.
Prior to Vol. 1, a common element of Kirby’s works was the piano, fractured through layers of grit. By contrast, the Intrigue & Stuff series has been exploring synthesizers, such as on the dirty, elegiac “Eventually, it eats your lungs.” Under layers of processed distortion, a gothically melodic synth lurks. This by itself is something unique in music. Normally synthesizers are prized for their cleanliness and purity. Kirby instead treats them like any other instrument in his repertoire, burying them in claustrophobic filters so they sound as if they are being heard from a great distance. Throughout, snatches of voices float, never quite understood or heard fully, but used as a subtle reinforcement of humanity. Rhythmically, the song is very subtle (unlike Vol. 1), but a dogged pulse anchors the background.
“Speeded up slow motion” is the shortest song here, but possibly the most beautiful for its brevity. Synthesized waves of sound run unchecked for four minutes, while a minor melody weaves quietly up through the rhythm. A simple composition outwardly, it highlights the beauty of pure sound by not overly processing the instruments. Ending this second volume is “Complex Expedition,” a long and foreboding horror masterpiece. The sparse and echoing intro perfectly foreshadows the more suspenseful moments to come. Almost as if Goblin’s Suspiria had been stretched out and reassembled through Kirby’s futurist lens, the track is haunting and childlike with organ, deep bass strums, and a moody synthesizer texture. The legacy of noise and synth experiments is clear when comparing that 1977 soundtrack with Intrigue & Stuff Vol. 2. Many times music is described as “cinematic” because it sounds grandiose or moody instead of actually reflecting the visual qualities of cinema. Kirby’s music is so emotionally resonant, it actually conjures narratives and images and thereby truly qualifies as cinematic.