It Was A Time Of Laboured Metaphors
Australia-born, Belfast-based artist Kate Carr’s musical work can be divided into two rough categories: place-based explorations using field recordings made in a specific location, such as 2014’s “Overheard in Doi Saket”, featuring sounds captured in Thailand, or last year’s “I Had Myself A Nuclear Spring”, inspired by wetlands surrounding the imposing presence of a nuclear power station in France; and albums that seem to refer less to a specific place than to personal narratives, for instance the emotional depths of “Fabulations”. On closer examination, however, such a distinction turns out to be overly simplistic, as most simple binaries tend to be, with the ostensibly location-oriented work foregrounding a specifically personal response to a given site, and the more abstract work mapping out a series of points in an interior and exterior travelogue.
In many ways, Carr’s new album “It Was A Time Of Laboured Metaphors” takes the more abstract, dreamlike qualities of “Fabulations” a step or two further. Gone completely now are the trademark guitar melodies that were an instantly-recognisable hallmark of her sound for many years. The haunting synth, rough noises, and clicking static that hovered in the background of “Fabulations” now form the essence of a stripped-back and bare music. Field recordings are still present, but their function seems entirely changed: no longer simple markers of place or carriers of narrative, the echoing voices, clunking goats’ bells, skateboarders, and even chirruping birds instead serve as a sort of counterbalance to the maudlin, sometimes downright gloomy atmospheres created by the low drones and echoing pops and cracks. When the music seems to be getting sucked too far down the hole of introspection, these found sounds intervene to place the pathos in the context of a world that encompasses and exceeds it.
If, as she suggests in her artist’s statement, Carr’s music centres on the question of how we come to know ourselves through sound and place, then with its quietness, dark colours, and frequent hesitations, “It Was A Time” seems like an album made for the lonelier, emptier moments of translocation. Those “What am I doing here?” moments are familiar enough to anyone who has travelled. With this music, Carr shows a continued willingness to be open and listen, even to such moments. The sounds inhabit a world more concrete grey and mundane than bright and exotic, but this didn’t spoil my enjoyment of them — perhaps music made for the place in which you are is preferable to a mirage of implausible escape? In any case, “It Was A Time” makes for a deep and absorbing night-time listen.