Release Date: Jan 17, 2012
Record label: The Control Group
If you thought that Cate Le Bon might pay much heed to the notion of a career arc, then you might think she erred in 2008, introducing herself to the wider world by appearing on Gruff Rhys’ chrome-shiny and faithfully ’80s-ish Neon Neon album ‘Stainless Style’. After all, the bucolic whirring folk and rusty psychedelic garage the Cardiff resident makes under her own name could scarcely be more different. Yet a common thread can be found in ‘CYRK’, Cate’s second album: the application of a sincere pop-song sensibility, and a yen for the surreal that sidesteps the zany.
Cate Le Bon’s surname could mislead some. Seeing as another, unrelated Le Bon fronted Duran Duran, this Welsh chanteuse Le Bon may cause a curious listener or new releases browser to make assumptions and anticipate another La Roux style songstress; one final ‘80s throwback revivalist to make the Delorean crash. Although Le Bon got her break collaborating with Super Furry Animals leader Gruff Rhys on his ‘80s coated side-project Neon Neon (who, incidentally, released a concept album on the maker of the Delorean), Le Bon’s own music is free of any such synthetically poppy sensibilities.
The sophomore outing from Welsh singer/songwriter Cate Le Bon pairs the spooky timbre of Nico and the meandering psych rock affectations of Syd Barrett with the experimental Nuggets-meets-Krautrock attack of Faust and Os Mutantes. Jangly retro-pop gems like "Puts Me to Work," "Falcon Eyed," and "Fold the Cloth," the latter of which sounds like a lost early-'90s Stereolab classic, keep things moving along at a brisk pace, while more exploratory pieces such as "Ploughing Out" and the neatly fractured title cut give listeners a little more to chew on. While each track on Cyrk brings to mind somebody else (Velvet Underground, "Genesis Hall"-era Fairport Convention, Comus, Spacemen 3), Le Bon somehow manages to make it all feel surprising natural, allowing the oddness of the songs, all of which are built upon the foundation of a simple, melodic hook, then allowed enough pasture to graze indefinitely, to evolve in a way that never seems contrived, despite their obvious influences.
It seems like every time you think the punked-up 60s girl group formula has been exhausted, someone comes up with a pleasing new twist. Cate Le Bon marries simple jangly guitar chords with heavy-hearted Nico-esque vocals, bursts of woozy, disorienting noises and a subtly off-kilter sensibility that never lets you get too comfortable, no matter how peacefully drifting the melodies might be. She's been associated with the Super Furry Animals, but that connection is more about their shared penchant for singing in both Welsh and English than it is about the music.
Cate Le BonCYRK[The Control Group; 2012]By Richard S Jones; January 17, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetI’ve never had much cause to write an open letter to America before, given that in most people’s minds America ostensibly has everything everyone else has; it just has more of it. More of everything, sold in bigger containers, advertised with sexier smiles and slicker labeling, couriered down straighter roads and exported wholesale far and wide with that added provenance of promise, hope and glory. But as a nation you birthed hip-hop, took rock ‘n’ roll where it needed to go, and even made blues cool again.
In a 2009 interview with Pitchfork, Super Furry Animals' frontman Gruff Rhys admitted he was first drawn to the Velvet Underground because he thought they were fellow Welshman, having noticed John Cale's familiarly regional accent on White Light/White Heat's "The Gift". In light of this anecdote, his ongoing mentorship of Penboyr-raised/Cardiff-based avant-pop chanteuse Cate Le Bon amounts to more than just an elder statesman lending support to the next great Welsh hope; rather, in Le Bon, he presumably hears the genuine realization of that mistaken assumption. While Le Bon's cool, disaffected voice was a natural fit for Rhys' electro-fied side project, Neon Neon, the music she creates under her own name more closely resembles The Velvet Underground & Nico relocated from Warhol's Factory to a Welsh farmhouse, displaying an equal affinity for narcotic melodies and jangle-riff repetition, but with the East Village grime replaced by a certain lambswool coziness.
In 2003, the novelist Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love and the short story collection Gryphon, wrote a curious essay for The Believer about how fiction writers were no longer taking the time to describe the facial features of their characters, at least not to the exacting extent that Charles Dickens, Henry James, Thomas Hardy and others did during the 1800s. “In the practice of any art, there are some procedures and practices that artists somehow forget how to do through neglect or distaste or their inability to concentrate their imaginative forces,” Baxter wrote. “Something had been given up.” Baxter might appreciate CYRK, the latest album by Welsh singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon.
Review Summary: a really good album that, contrary to popular belief, wasn't written by NicoOn my absolutely wishy-washy but definitely noble search for as many singer plus guitar albums I could find, it was in Vashti Bunyan’s Just Another Diamond Day I was able to make a home- preferably a log cabin- to crawl up in. Not that this is a review of that (though if I can petition someone to write a glowing 5 for it, yes please), but it is the warmth in that album that startled me. Even if it isn’t the perfect acoustic album- there’s more to it around the edges than that, shout out to the album’s obscure fiddle player- Bunyan’s assurance on a song such as “Love Song” speaks volumes of how to make an album that carries guitar and voice to its core.
Any musician whose success has been aided by their association with a better-known singer will always struggle to step out of their famous friend’s shadow. That’s why you’ll rarely read an article about Cate le Bon (and clearly this one is no exception) that doesn’t mention the fact that she’s toured and collaborated with psychedelic indie wizard Gruff Rhys. On this album, le Bon’s second, the links between the two Welsh songwriters are as close as ever – CYRK is being released on Gruff Rhys’ label Onvi and during its recording le Bon was able to take advantage of Super Furry Animals’ compendium of synthesisers, effects pedals and guitars – but that doesn’t stop le Bon from making a record that’s unmistakably her own.
Welsh singer/songwriter Cate Le Bon opens her latest album CYRK with the jangling, infectious "Falcon Eyed," a carousing rocker that sounds like Nico if she had stuck around with The Velvet Underground long enough to be a part of Loaded. It's a bold, promising opener of a song. And although little of what follows in the album approaches that song's instant accessibility, the subsequent numbers unfold in a subtler, more impressionable way that showcases just how poignant and powerful Le Bon can be in her songwriting.
While Cate Le Bon debuted with a dark side, her follow-up, CYRK, shows the first signs of the Cardiff-based songstress leaving that identity behind. Her haunting, Welsh-infused vocals stand as the driving force behind an album of mixed traits, mingling the familiar gloom with experimental pop. These newfound pop allowances are poised to bring Le Bon a breakout year.
A genuinely off-kilter pop record that never feels too self-conscious or contrived. Nick Levine 2012 "Cut a remote island in two and place one half to your ear…" is how Cate Le Bon sells this album. That's a pretty esoteric description, but as you listen to the Welshwoman's second LP, it starts to make sense. Cyrk is a curious musical brew that blends Velvet Underground-style shaggy jangles with a kind of bucolic psych-folk sound.
KATHLEEN EDWARDS “Voyageur” (Zoë/Rounder) On her first three albums the Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards made folk rock with sturdy shoulders and square corners. She’s a brawny singer when she wants to be, and a forthright songwriter, and if she sometimes had more energy or tension than the form could bear, well, a little bit of danger was never unwelcome. But there were limits Ms.
Cardiff-based songstress Cate Le Bon crafts creations of the prog-pop persuasion, and is set to return with her second album ‘CYRK’. Experimental, yet erring on traditional folk, Le Bon makes music that is both eerie and of an era past. Yet for all its 70s-soaked psychedelic sheen, Le Bon’s music is distinctively Welsh, not least because of the interchangeable cast of musicians featured both on her recordings and in her live sets, such as H.
Filled with high-energy strumming, drumming and recorder playing, the music on Cate Le Bon’s second album, CYRK, is a perfect fit for her deep, soulful, Nico-esque voice. Singled out in the past for having very dark lyrical content (she buried many pets in her childhood), Le Bon has departed a bit from this with CYRK. Le Bon’s lyrics require a close listen and interpretation, with every song being deeper than her sometimes high-pitched sweet voice, piano and recorder tend to make the listener believe.