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Cate Le Bon

+ {Drinks}

One of the growing number of kooky nu-folk artists in today’s market, Penboyr-born, Cardiff-based Cate Timothy is rather unique in the respect she’s er… Welsh and not American. The fact she sings in her own language some of the time and has supported fellow countryman Gruff Rhys (of SUPER FURRY ANIMALS) on his 2008 Mercury-nominated indie-pop project NEON NEON, shows that she has clout and ambition; the said muso once described her double-A side download single (`No One Can Drag Me Down’ and `Disappear’) as “BOBBIE GENTRY and NICO fighting over a Casio keyboard”.
Translated as “to look a gift-horse in the mouth”, LE BON’s next release was the `Edrych Yn Llygaid Ceffyl Benthyg’ 10” EP, recalling days when the likes of MEIC STEVENS, GORKY’S and Gruff’s act flew the flag for Welsh-language indie folks. Dark and haunting without being too moribund in sound, new set (under the self-fixated working title “Pet Deaths”) was almost immediately turned into her debut release proper, ME OH MY (2009) {*7}. A promising start, it featured ten tracks over 35 minutes, her highlights coming through `Shoeing The Bones’, `Eyes So Bright’ and `Digging Song’.
On the back of guest vocal roles for The Gentle Good (on their sophomore “Tethered For The Storm”) and Boom Dip (on the track, `Do As I Do’), and with flighty Casio in hand, CYRK (2012) {*7}, was delivered by LE BON for The Control Group independent. Leaving behind indie-folk for a psych singer-songwriter approach (think STEREOLAB meets AMON DUUL II on a carousel), melody was almost secondary to many of the eerie and explorative dirges on board here. But in `Puts Me To Work’, `Fold The Cloth’, the folkiest `Through The Mill’, the title track and others, Cate’s NICO aspirations were assured two-fold. And if one “Cyrk” wasn’t enough, an EP of outtakes, by way of `Cyrk II’, was issued as the lady LE BON set off to L.A. – by `The Eiggy Sea’ or `Seaside, Low Tide’, no doubt – to make her fortune.
Bolstered by a Stateside deal granted by Wichita Records (Turnstile in the UK), for album three, MUG MUSEUM (2013) {*7}, Cate drew in the usual suspect comparisons to NICO, SANDY DENNY and even Noosha Fox (remember her?). Kicking off her sunny-day “Laurel Californian” time-capsule stylee with `I Can’t Help You’ and `Are You With Me Now?’, quirky Cate cast a breeze or aura like a long-lost child of the psychedelic salvation front – fictitious as it was. Together with Brit refugee Mike Hadreas (of Perfume Genius), LE BON excelled in the solemn `I Think I Knew’. Was it a coincidence that the iconic LOU REED had passed away as her “Mug Museum” was about to be launched, and while `Wild’ was not a true comparison to his VU halcyon days (or for that matter the STEREOLAB-like `Sisters’), `No God’ and `Cuckoo Through The Walls’ strode into the same flowery field.
While it was hardly surprising that Drag City Records captured her signature Stateside, the charismatic CATE LE BON got off the mark chart-wise for Turnstile when CRAB DAY {*7} held the UK No.78 spot for a week in April 2016. The female JOHN CALE, her chock-filled confectionaries of kooky pessimist-pop have an off-kilter appeal over the underlining messages on the “Psycho Killer”-beaten title track, `Wonderful’ (her own “Them Heavy People”), the faithfully-frantic `Find Me’ and `We Might Revolve’ (think LENE LOVICH fronting GANG OF FOUR?). Listen up America!
On either side of “Crab Day”, Cate’s collaboration with WHITE FENCE’s Tim Presley (as DRINKS), saw the dispatch of a couple of neo-psych sets. The first one, HERMITS ON HOLIDAY (2015) {*7}, was as weird and woozy as one would expect; featuring frenetic and fractured follies of post-punk such as `Laying Down Rock’, `Focus On The Street’, `Cannon Mouth’ and the title track.
Bonding once again (at Saint Hippolyte du Fort in the south of France) on set deux of the pair’s sonic submissions, 2018’s HIPPO LITE {*7} sounded as if the “DRINKS” had been passed around a little too often. Joking aside, the crooning of Tim and the high-octane trill of Cate gelled well enough on the angular points of best bits, `Blue From The Dark’, `Real Outside’, `In The Night Kitchen’ and `Leave The Lights On’, and all probably benefitted from listening to The RAINCOATS and FAUST.
Subsequently switching independent allegiances to Mexican Summer Records for 2019’s REWARD {*8}, LE BON’s self-imposed exile in order to study the art of making bespoke furniture was now over. She’d also just worked alongside Bradford Cox as producer on DEERHUNTER’s “Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?” – going a little under the radar – but that mattered not to a keen Cate ready to hop aboard the sadcore train back to indie-pop land. Augmented by Huw Evans and RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS’ Josh Klinghoffer (guitars), Sweet Baboo’s Stephen Black (bass), Josiah Steinbrick (percussion) and WARPAINT’s Stella Mozgawa (drums), comparisons to BOWIE’s “Berlin” trilogy period was mooted by several reviewers; `Daylight Matters’ certainly matched that contention. The man-of-the-moment, KURT VILE, lent a hand as backing vocalist on the skewered funk of `Magnificent Gestures’, however, the NICO-lite `You Don’t Love Me’, opening gambit `Miami’, and the chirpy SLITS-meets-YOKO ONO-esque `Mother’s Mother’s Magazines’ that most impressed her followers.
© MC Strong 2011/GFD2 // rev-up MCS Nov2013-Jun2019

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