Review Summary: and get some sand in my shoes
I don’t travel much anymore. However, in my stint with the military I spent a fair amount of time in foreign places. As a means of compensating with my discomfort I would occasionally make up stories to accommodate my surroundings. For example, I spent a month or so in Wales, and the wilderness was teeming. It sounds hokey, but the landscape seemed to mirror my state of mind, and occasionally vice-versa, yielding emotions and realizations I didn’t know I was capable of. This interplay had me convinced in the power of travel as a means of self-discovery. With Fabulations
, field recording artist Kate Carr does what I did, albeit much more elegantly. She constructs narratives based on her own emotions and realizations, indicative of her surroundings. The exchange between her headspace and her physical space is fluid and seamless, as though they work collectively, illustrating in tandem. Fabulations
is a tapestry of both fragility and strength, as it explores the weaknesses of the human psyche alongside physical endurance. Trekking throughout Europe, be it in Italy or Ireland, France or Spain, Carr is the archetypal wanderer - in mind and body.
Field recordings are usually highly interpretive, and unravelling the snippets of sound can lead somewhere just as easily as nowhere. Carr titles her songs smartly, essentially throwing us a bone. The lovely “I remembered it all Somewhere Near Glasgow” displays the sentiment of discovering harsh realities in an unsympathetic backdrop - similar to hearing news of my grandmother’s death from my sergeant, an indifferent messenger, a thousand miles away from home where I might've felt some comfort due to familiarity. The way the intro’s melody repeats at the song’s midpoint shows the habit of reiterating things in your head, serving no purpose beyond obsessing futilely. “I felt Better About Everything In Dunquin” is a bit deceptive, as it implies a resolution, but still harbours feelings of uncertainty and discord. The moody drones clash beautifully with chimes, giving way to the sounds of harsh winds. It’s as though Carr’s rationale is crumbling and the environment is taking over. The most genuinely serene moment on Fabulations
is “Tourists Boat in Les Calanques”. It feels like Carr is basking in the ambience, rather than using it as a vessel for negative thoughts. Granted, the distorted luau music feels half-hearted, but at least it’s progress. As she drifts down the river, the sounds of wildlife accompany the smooth drones perfectly, and she is able to look back with a smile on her face.
is music crossing the line dividing passive enjoyment and full-fledged therapy. Carr’s compositions delicately balance emotionally powerful drones with vulnerable thought patterns, peppered with field recordings that add an irreproducible dimension to the sound. It is both contemplative and spontaneous, as a tale of someone looking for change but clinging to negative memories. Despite being recorded in several different countries, traces of unresolved problems give the album a unifying concept: on a journey of self-discovery, there’s no guaranteeing you’ll like who you find. But, you can be accepting. Bit by bit, step by step, you might even grow on yourself. If the closing track “Bleeding Love (Bus / Sicily)” serves as any indication, it’s as simple as letting the environment fill your ears, drowning out your self-doubts. As the Leona Lewis song plays in the background, it seems like the song bears significance to Carr, perhaps remnants of a negative relationship. I can only speculate. The field recording artist never utters a word, but as the hustle and bustle of the city bus grows more and more rowdy, it's as though Kate Carr is saying “Almost there. If only this bus were just a bit noisier, maybe I’d actually have some goddamn peace and quiet."