I Had Myself A Nuclear Spring
Several days prior to Kate Carr’s arrival at Marnay-sur-Seine, the great river burst its banks in the vicinity of the village. The Australian artist found herself in a landscape clogged with water and mud, full of nesting water birds. Another surprise was the large nuclear power station nearby, parts of which produced a large amount of audible buzzing and electromagnetic interference that had strong effects on certain types of audio recording. The work produced, encapsulated in the short release “I Had Myself A Nuclear Spring”, thus ended up being quite different from what Carr had expected when she boarded the train to the French countryside.
The opening track ‘Under wires’ presents itself as a more-or-less standard field recording of birdsong in a woodland environment, but what seems at first like wind or microphone noise turns out to be a strange buzz. From there, the release digs deep into the weird and unsettling, with guitar and synth adding extra pathos to the electromagnetic buzzing and humming. In second piece ‘Confluence’, the bird calls are pushed to the background and electronically treated to turn them into eerie hoots and shrieks. In other places, blips and two-note glockenspiel patterns evoke dripping water. The general mood is dark and dreamlike, with the brief return to unadorned field recording right at the end of the release inheriting a strange and uncanny glow from the music preceding it.
For all its brooding, charged atmosphere, “I Had Myself a Nuclear Spring” doesn’t seem to evoke as clear and convincing an impression of a place as other works made by Carr in specific locations, such as “Paris, Winter/Spring”. This could be due to the balance of field recordings and composed sounds, or it could be that the soundscape around Marnay-sur-Seine and the nuclear power station is just too weird to be recognised by those who haven’t experienced it directly. In any case, the release is certainly the most unsettling and disquietening to come from Carr so far; the more she travels, the further her music is pushed into new and unexpected territory.