In a strange way, Kate Carr's Landing Lights invites comparison to Stefan Betke's first Pole album, CD 1. Admittedly, the artists do appear to be unusual bedfellows, given that Carr's music roots itself in field recordings and Pole's in experimental techno, yet a connection between the two recordings does emerge as one listens to Carr's album. Issued on her Flaming Pines label in a modest edition of 100 handmade and numbered CD-Rs, Landing Lights is speckled with the same kind of textural crackle that earmarked Pole's album so arrestingly when it appeared in 1998. The opening track alone, “Thunderstorm,” hints at the connection when it includes loud tears alongside its textural smears and field recordings, and “Luck Star of the Splendid One” and “Untitled (Dreams Of Hawaii)” are similarly punctuated with pops and static. In Pole-like manner, vinyl crackle figures prominently into the overall sound design of “Not a Cloud in Sight,” which otherwise lurches for nine minutes in a brooding noir-ambient style that even extends into the dark recesses of lounge jazz. In fact, the piece is so texturally rich and precisely rendered, one could easily think of it as a lost track from the sessions for Pole's debut.
Carr created the material between 2010 and 2012 and supplemented her field recordings and samples with guitar, bass guitar, synthesizers, keyboards, bells, and an owl horn for the eleven pieces. In other songs, the Pole connection recedes and the focus shifts to Carr the melodist and sound sculptor. Electric guitar becomes the central instrument in a number of pieces, though its sound is often counterbalanced by field recordings details (e.g., “The Bats of Centennial Park”). “My Brother Came to Stay” sprinkles its wistful guitar reverie with bell accents, while “Coral Sea” pairs its guitar strums with, naturally, burbling sea sounds. Carr isn't coy about track contents, as the titles often convey a clear hint of what to expect in terms of arrangement and mood (e.g., “I Bought a New Cowbell,” “The Owls Were Calling That Dark, Dark Night”). Conceptually, the forty-six-minute release's focus is journeys, large and small, undertaken under daylight skies and night-time stars, but Landing Lights offers a thoroughly engrossing listening experience on purely musical grounds in the absence of such background detail, especially when its contents range so widely across the sonic spectrum.