A fabulation is the act or result of fabulating or telling invented stories; as a title, it captures a distinction between much of Kate Carr’s recent work, in which personal experiences are grounded in a narratively coherent realism (“Overheard in Doi Saket”, “Paris, Winter-Spring”), and the more explicitly ‘invented’ sound worlds that populate her new album for French label Soft. Departing from the practice of dedicating a whole release to a particular geographic location or moment in time, “Fabulations” collects a patchwork of pieces using field recordings from a number of different places visited on different occasions.
The range of timbres and recorded acoustic situations on “Fabulations” seems very wide, with some pieces apparently being comprised of a great number of sound sources. I write ‘seems’ because a lot of these sound sources are quite vague and ambiguous: it’s often hard to tell whether a broadband rumble or pinging of static is part of a field recording, the overlaying of a new field recording, or a sound added in the studio. The structure of each piece is often equally indistinct: whereas much of Carr’s previous work is typically formed around a single field recording, played back without interruption, with the addition of tones or melodic fragments, on “Fabulations” the track structures are much more diverse and often less obviously described in terms of a linear narrative. There are moments when, as previously, Carr’s guitar picks out some now-familiar melodic lines, but they are rarer than before, with the guitar generally sinking into a hazy background.
One way of describing these ‘fabulations’, one that stresses the subjective and personal aspects of their composition, would be as ‘dream-like’. However, their indistinctness and resistance to easy narrativisation is something I recognise not only from dreams, but also from waking experiences of the music’s subject matter. This is perhaps most evident in the several pieces on the album in which the title refers to travel. “Cold Trains” and “Bleeding Love (Bus Sicily)” are, to my mind, strikingly realistic representations of travel by public transport — not merely what such travel sounds like, but the states of consciousness it can evoke. Interestingly, the two pieces are composed very differently: the former is heavily manipulated and overlaid with guitar and synth, while the latter appears to be a single unedited and unadorned field recording. In both cases, however, stripping away the references that would attempt to make them seem more concrete and specific (such as the destination of the journey, or the time of year of its undertaking) actually makes those situations more recognisable and convincing, not less.
“Fabulations” is thus neither an anthology of out-and-out fantasies, nor a dossier of verifiable documents, nor merely a collection of personal experiences or reminiscences. Rather, the album’s double gesture that is simultaneously both documentary trace and sensory impression could perhaps best be thought of as re-presenting things and events in the same manner in which they present themselves to consciousness: as indistinct and withdrawn. For this reason, “Fabulations” is perhaps the most beguiling, challenging, and rewarding album Carr has released thus far.