Return to New Caledonia is an EP about remembrance, even if the remembrance is skewed; flashes of insight mingled with déjà vu. The music itself is a return, a reinterpretation of things heard on holiday: a return of the mind and the heart, a translation of the real to the impression. Is this exactly what it sounded like to be there? No. Is it true to the mind’s eye? Only Kate Carr knows for sure, but one would hazard that the answer is yes.
The field recordings and lighter sounds provide the highlights: the reef fish (who sound somewhat like frogs and woodpeckers) on “La piscine naturelle” mix well with the trickle of water and the occasional shh-shh of a shaker. A soft synth surfaces slowly in the background, then sinks to the depths. A dominant drum noise is the only distraction; as the sound of least interest, it would have been better buried. This same sound reemerges on “A song for ceremonies”, but drowns out its gentle keyboards like jungle drums calling a tribe to war. Is this the pulse of New Caledonia, the force of insistent memory? If so, it makes sense; but it’s still a liability.
Fortunately, the remainder fares much better: the synthesized insect cries of “Landing”, buzzing in waves, intimating the hottest of afternoons; the beautiful bells of “We took a trip through spider forest”, operating as a clarion cry to the mysterious sounds therein; and the set’s animated closer, “We left in the rain”, in which the entire forest seems to gather at the edge to bid Carr au revoir. The birds sound like momentarily saddened children, waving excitedly before returning to the forest.
One can see why Carr has been haunted by these sounds ever since returning, inspired to augment them with her own. This symphonic duet transverses time to create a hybrid of sound and response. The line between field work and instrumentation is erased whenever tone and volume are matched; in these moments, Carr’s return to New Caledonia becomes our introduction. (Richard Allen)