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Christina Carter - Living Contact

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Artist: Christina Carter

Album: Living Contact

Label: Kranky

Review date: Dec. 1, 2004

Christina Carter’s latest solo effort presents six tracks of acoustic guitar ramblings and sporadic vocals that might never have been released to the public had it not been for the CD-R and easy home recording. Carter recorded Living Contact between 1994 and 1998, on a boombox or 4-track tape, and released it on her own label Wholly Other as a 100-copy CD-R in 2001. Now the Chicago based Kranky has stepped in to make it official, as part of the label’s ongoing effort to document the Charalambides and their related projects. While CD-R releases have made it possible to document moments that might not have been otherwise, the often limited runs of these releases has meant that many remain frustratingly difficult to track down. Thankfully, Kranky has made the effort to make this set of music available for a larger audience.

The music on Living Contact, as well as her work with the Charalambides and Scorces, defines ephemeral. The album outs a set of moments intended to remain inaccessible. It's just Carter, alone in a room somewhere, exploring dark themes, simple progressions, loose rhythms, potential lyrics – fragments of a musical diary.

Diaries can sometimes be painfully and unflatteringly honest and Carter’s ideas flow untethered here – flubbed notes, false starts and fluctuating tempos lie scattered. On ”Body Energy Exchange,” she picks out a phrase, then changes her mind mid-flow. She later layers in new thoughts with overdubs to create a tangled dialogue of half-chords and clipped phrases. The pieces here are not completely haphazard; it’s just that Carter makes it feel spontaneous. She overdubs herself again on ”Going Down,” dissonantly setting dirge-like strumming against short, single-note riffs. Near the end she mournfully intones ”I’ll go down” and a shocking bramble of randomly plucked notes corrupts the piece’s meditative calm. It’s an edited effect, but one Carter pulls off with subtle drama. On ”Dream Mother” Carter worries a primitive progression, rocking between two chords to create a hazy lullaby.

Carter’s recording methods add a palpable atmosphere in the form of analog hiss, unintentional reverb and the way one can hear distances from the microphone. On ”Alone, Not Alone,” ambient noise and muddy lower register notes nearly drown her plaintive vocals and subdued strumming in a murky drone. When she sings, ”The rain falls today,” the tape hiss acts like a thick fog – obscuring another private moment by a mystifying talent.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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