Kate Carr: Return to New Caledonia
Flaming Pines

If Return to New Caledonia is an exercise in remembrance for its creator, it's a visit free of memories for the listener and thus a thoroughly novel experience. Kate Carr, the founder of Flaming Pines, acts as tour guide on this tropical excursion to the New Caledonia locale. It's an especially interesting project for how Carr expertly integrates instrument sounds (guitar, keyboard, bells, shaker, synths, and a coconut instrument) and field recordings (gathered from the Ile des pins (Isle of Pines) and Lifou Island in December 2011) into the three-inch CD's five settings (limited to 100 copies).

Even the most everyday phenomena can assume an otherworldly character when presented as sound only. The insect sounds that come at the listener in waves during “Landing,” for example, are more suggestive of alien sci-fi terrain than a natural setting 1500 kilometres east of Australia. A muffled drum pattern pounding throughout “La piscine naturelle” lends the piece a rather ominous air, though one's attention is generally more drawn to the percussive colour generated by both natural (reef fish) and instrument (shaker) elements—an excellent example of how Carr shapes the two sets of sounds into an arresting collage. In keeping with its H.G. Wells-styled title, “We Took a Trip Through Spider Forest” presents a haunting plunge into a world filled with crystalline shadings, after which the portentous drum pattern re-emerges in “A Song for Ceremonies,” though this time tamed by the becalmed presence of electric guitar and soft synth textures.

But caveat emptor: as should be obvious, Carr's trip isn't about the carefree good times that comes with the typical holiday package. Instead, it offers an illuminating portrait of a mysterious and sometimes frightening locale (or as illuminating as a succinct, twenty-one-minute document can be) that's more designed with the adventurous traveler in mind.

September 2012