Kate Carr’s music, like her curatorial work for her label Flaming Pines, emphasises themes related to nature and the sense of place that can emerge through natural phenomena. While many practices based around field recordings seek to efface the agency of the recordist, Carr frequently uses clearly articulated lines of guitar melody to establish her own presence as subject and agent within the natural sonic environments she captures or depicts. The suggested ethos is one of dialogue between a human being and nature, or of the former as witness to the power and beauty of the latter.
There are plenty of moments on her new album “Dark Days” where this clean dichotomy starts to unravel, however. Several pieces ditch both field recordings and foregrounded melody altogether in favour of murky, dissonant drones that sometimes recall the fevered dreams of Félicia Atkinson or the weird folk of Alastair Galbraith; others, such as closing track “Tomorrow Afternoon”, strip away the layers to leave bare melody suspended in midair. Equating such gestures with a turn inwards, away from the world and towards a more uniquely human centre, would perhaps be oversimplifying things. Through the contrast of repeated melodic fragments with long non-repeating passages, and a flexibility of tempo and harmony that grants a coincidental quality to the meeting of tones and timbres, the music becomes nature-like without the need to parade obvious natural signifiers; those same signifiers are themselves transformed and integrated as musical elements. In this sense “Dark Days” recalls the work of sometimes Flaming Pines contributor Marcus Fischer: the line between being in nature and the being of nature is trampled underfoot, though under whose feet precisely is difficult to determine.
At the same time, there is a specificity to this folding of the natural and the human into one another that marks it as emerging from the practice of a particular artist living in a particular place. If Carr sometimes speaks with nature’s voice, then nature frequently borrows hers; the guitar lines slide from music to birdsong and back again. With each release one gets the sense that Carr is getting to grips with a distinctive approach to making music, pushing it to see how far it will go — with “Dark Days” that turns out to be quite some way.
* Photo: O.Sydney