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CARR, KATE - The Story surrounds us

Format: MC
Label & Cat.Number: Helen Scarsdale Agency HMS041
Release Year: 2017
Note: second cassette-only release for KATE CARR on Helen Scarsdale, her collected field recordings from Iceland, Mexico, Sweden and Spain merge with a kind of slow motion songwriting, extremely subtle, melancholic and drone-like but with glittering elements shining through.. "a wonderful blend of composed sound blended with the incidental, ephemeral sounds that surround us at all times, culminating in a strange, sometimes almost alien, but never mundane experience" [Brainwashed]
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"Kate Carr melds the exquisite details of her field recordings with an ephemeral approach to the song. This Australian has relocated herself to London after many trips around the globe. With each orbiting journey, she has collected innumerable sounds from the urbane to the aqueous and from the frenetic to the sublime, contextualizing all of these into compositions rippling with primordial melodies through guitar, piano, and electronics. The Story Surrounds Us follows her highly acclaimed albums I Had Myself A Nuclear Spring (first released on her own Flaming Pines imprint in 2015) and Carr's debut for Helen Scarsdale in 2016, It Was A Time Of Laboured Metaphors.

Emblematic of her work is a gentle dislocation between the environmental sounds and her drone-dub ellipses of somnambulant melody. The clatter of a frozen dock or a vibrational shimmer from rustled objects or the unintelligible whispers displaces the sense of self amidst a sea of disparate symbols and coded thought. More a travelogue in and out of one's own body than to any particular place. Carr suggests "In a way, it is about restlessness, an uncomfortable tossing and turning in all these many different places, a struggle somehow to forge a connection between my own internal world and all these places and persons I have encountered. I think this holds a sense of unease and strain, with both beautiful and failed moments of intimacy and connection which are made either possible or impossible in the difficult and distorted context of being away. It is quite sad, really." Look to Carla dal Forno, Alan Lamb and those moments of clarity in the shapeshifting ethos from Jewelled Antler for neighboring sounds to Kate Carr's chimerical compositions."


"A rather fast follow-up to her last tape (It Was a Time of Laboured Metaphors, also on Helen Scarsdale), Australian sound artist Kate Carr's latest work is another entry in a rapidly growing discography that blends elements of both traditional composition and the unpredictable nature of field recordings. She does this and merges them together seamlessly, coming together as a beautiful set of sounds and moods from across the globe, yet still unified as a part of the human experience.

Elements of The Story Surrounds Us were recorded during Carrs travels to Iceland, Mexico, Sweden, and Spain, all of which clearly had an influence on the work; most obviously in the natural recordings she utilizes throughout. The tape is bookended by two sets of untreated field recordings from lafsfjrur, Iceland that perfectly capture the juxtaposition of her work. The first, "The Creaking Door Of The Abandoned Concrete Factory" is half a minute of just that: creaking sounds of post-industrial decay, capturing the emptiness of what surely was once part of a thriving industry. The end is Water Lapping at Ice on Melting Lake: the sound of wet and watery nature decaying, no doubt exacerbated by the same industry.

Between these two most obvious field recordings lay eight songs that are never truly a-musical, but never become overly conventional either. "Things That Stubbornly And Resiliently Subsist Without Leave" features a lot of sparse, delicate guitar playing, but the musicality is broken up by mysterious, more synthetic-like passages that never become unpleasant. This combination also features heavily in "I Didn't Get A Lot of Sleep in Mexico", with light floating tones melded with processed guitar-like sounds, peppered with incidental found recordings and hints of music throughout.

A brilliant pairing of compositions is the untreated recordings of "Communication Wires In Tropical Storm, Si'an Kaan, Mexico", and their appearance in the more compositionally based "We Were The Pulse Of A Wire Pulled Tightly". The former recordings are simply the sound of undulating metallic cables whipped about in heavy winds, taking on an odd beauty that contrasts their significantly more frightening pedigree. On "We Were The Pulse" they reappear as overt pulses and jittery echoes resonating within electronic swarms and insinuations of percussion. The final product is moody and expansive, but concludes on a much lighter, drifting note compared to its more menacing moments.

Other moments of this tape showcase Carrs more conventional musical tendencies as well. Gentle melodies are the initial focus on "There Was a Lot of Whispering Involved", with a bit of plucked string being counterbalanced by the heavier subterranean rumble. On the whole it sounds much more traditional, but no less gripping. On the other hand, "1001 (Missed Connections)" begins with crackling voices on a PA system and ugly buzzing noises, but soon is realigned into sustained, yet chilly melodic moments. What even resembles a traditional 4/4 bass drum comes in, but just a bit too briefly.

Conceptually, The Story Surrounds Us continues Kate Carr's focus on studying the sounds of specific locations, as well as the effects of social decay and its inevitable renewal. However, the music is captivating on its own as well: a wonderful blend of composed sound blended with the incidental, ephemeral sounds that surround us at all times, culminating in a strange, sometimes almost alien, but never mundane experience." [Brainwashed]