Release Date: May 24, 2019
Record label: Mexican Summer
From last year's Marfa Myths residency, to her DRINKS LP with White Fence 's Tim Presley , Hippo Lite, a fascination with woodworking, a collaborative, but yet-to-be-released EP with Bradford Cox, as well as her co-producing role for Deerhunter 's latest, Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?, Le Bon rnow eturns with her fifth and most grand LP, Reward. Here, while she enlivens decades of sound whether reworking krauty gems or art-pop glam, to the embrace of Françoise Hardy and David Bowie , and even channeling the likes of Stereolab , Reward shows Le Bon harnessing a reinterpretation all her own - stretching her range with layers of idiosyncrasies while remaining at the helm as one of today's most sui generis anomalies. While Le Bon's work echoes some iconic names, Reward's songs display a quiet vehemence - her style swoons with balladry textures that aren't just quaint, but tracks that're are rounded with sophistication, showing Le Bon poised as ever.
Welsh artist Cate Le Bon's fifth album, Reward, was created in a vacuum of solitude. While Le Bon was in an intensive furniture-making course by day, she spent her nights alone at the piano writing the skeletons that would be fleshed out as songs here. Nonstop activity is part of Le Bon's brand, and while her collaborative band Drinks and production duties for Deerhunter's Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? took up space on her resumé not long before Reward, three years passed between its release and her last fully solo album, 2016's Crab Day.
The Italo Calvino short story "Adventure of a Bather" concerns itself with the sudden disappearance of a bather's swimsuit and her subsequent alienation from the rest of the beach goers and fishers around her. What was supposed to be a scene of domestic retreat, her husband having accompanied her earlier, soon ends up a scene of existential questioning, and the cautious and paranoid search to find who can really be trusted to help her in her time of need hangs over her idyll like a bad dream. Reward, Cate Le Bon's magnificent and starkly candid new album, neatly dovetails with this story, providing a sonic guide through sudden moments of unexpected isolation as she effortlessly synthesizes the ethos of outsider art with the spirit of nostalgia.
What does solitude sound like? Reward, the fifth album by Cate Le Bon, offers a strange and beautiful approximation. Le Bon grew up on a farm in rural Wales, and her earliest music--with its humble, organic whimsy--exuded the buoyant charm of someone trying to make a connection. Since then, her work has grown more alien, reflective but devilishly playful: a turn away from the world and into the landscape of her own mind.
You don't have to listen to Cate Le Bon's music for very long to see why artists like Deerhunter's Bradford Cox and her DRINKS cohort Tim Presley desire to work with her. Le Bon's work covers so much emotional and intellectual territory with her music, from whimsy to reflection and surreality. And it's all anchored by her bewitching vocals, as close to a contemporary Nico as we might ever get.
Cate Le Bon's music often sounds as if it's been written in isolation, unaffected by convention and the outside world. Her last album, 'Crab Day', was strange and genre-defying, its lyrics brimming with idiosyncrasies and wonderfully bizarre metaphors that you wouldn't find anywhere else (whatever you think of the line "Love is not love when it’s a coat hanger," you'd be hard-pushed to call it a cliche). The same is true of 'Reward'.
T here are several time-honoured options available to the artist who is a decade or so into their career and keen to reset their creativity. You can surround yourself with a fresh set of musicians, or hire a new producer whose approach to music seems markedly different to your own. You can self-consciously dabble in genres you've hitherto avoided, seeing how your songs adapt to an unsullied and unexpected setting.
With its unorthodox, off-kilter romanticism, the inventiveness captured on Cate Le Bon's 'Reward' seems untouched by any norm or tradition. Each album release clearly represents a new challenge for her, and she continuous to turn things upside down and give conventional thinking a good shake up. The multifaceted nature of her album also scores highly on scales of consistency, quality and difference.