Landing Lights is a diverse collection of tracks that share a common root: home. Some of the tracks reflect leaving, others the distance traveled, and others the landing lights of return. Thoughts of home travel with us wherever we go, a concept that Kate Carr has taken to heart. It’s her most diverse collection yet, due to the fact that the tracks were not initially conceived as an album. When sequenced, they serve as a sonic diary.
Carr belongs to a small subset of artists who are active in both field recording and musical composition. This flexibility gives her an advantage over the non-musical traveler; she is able to capture her natural soundtrack as she goes, then revise it to match the soundtrack in her mind, as she did on Return to New Caledonia. For most people, the relationship between travel and sound is restricted to the music they may carry or encounter, an outer relationship rather than an inner one. For example, we might remember the “Bats of centennial park”, maybe even snap a couple photos; but our sonic souvenir would likely be restricted to a track on a tourist disc or the music that was playing on our iPod when we saw them. Carr composes an aural fantasy in which she duets with the bats on acoustic guitar. This creates an aura of mystery; could it really have happened like that? A similar juxtaposition occurs on “The owls were calling that dark, dark night”, which begs to be expanded for the Birds of a Feather series. The owls call; the flames crackle; the synthesizer drones. The gap between the source material and the final production creates a surface tension that enhances the appreciation of each element.
Birds are never far from the microphones; they appear again on “Wet winter”, along with crickets, snow melt and a motorcycle. When Carr’s dark guitar joins the proceedings, the timbre matches that of Stuzha’s Siberian Sketches: forlorn, deserted, empty. This makes the following track, “A Hymn for Home”, sound like a lamentation. Shadows abound on the dark ambient “I bought a new cowbell” and “My brother came to stay” (which makes use of the same cowbell), as well as the evocative, cello-sampling “Thunderstorm”. But a couple lighter tracks are also present, namely “The Coral Sea” and “untitled (Dreams of Hawaii)”, with hints of sunnier climes and happier days. If home is where the heart is, and the heart drifts, then for a period of time, home drifts as well. Landing Lights delves deeper into the tone of travel than related discs, and benefits greatly as a result. (Richard Allen)