Review: Cate Le Bon – CYRK
Published on May 12th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
His grand Super Furriness Gruff Rhys once summed up the music of compatriot Cate Le Bon – specifically her debut double A-side “No One Can Drag Me Down” / “Disappear” – in the following terms: “Bobbie Gentry and Nico fight over a Casio keyboard – melody wins!” Throw in the shambolic yet magical mischief-making of early Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci (hey, is that Richard James on bass?) and you’d have yourself a reasonably accurate description of Le Bon’s peculiar and bewitching second album CYRK.
Opener “Falcon Eyed” is chugging odd-pop with a barmy keyboard wig-out reminiscent of Rhys himself, “Puts Me to Work” starts out gently country-ish and ends in cacophony, the title track leads stately, bucolic psych-pop into scuzzy riffing, and all the way through this strange adventure Le Bon’s light, steady voice exudes personality without having to resort to histrionics (bar the “ooooooOOOOOOHHHH!” at the end of “Puts Me to Work”, which [un]fortunately doesn’t end with “you’re shit!”).
An altogether darker gaggle of keyboard sounds buzz and tap like Morse code at the start of “Julia”, in which minor-key guitar chords and Le Bon’s ghostly falsetto amount to something that sounds like some Kate Bush murder ballad, a quirkily tangential one at that, while the discordant splendour of “Greta” takes on board a jamming trumpet and ends up as a military march.
Atonality reigns supreme on the vintage psychedelia wonderment of “Fold the Cloth”, a revelation with its daft, fuzzy guitar solo and lyrics such as “tuck your belly in your chest and see how close we are”, and the surprises keep on coming with “The Man I Wanted”, which sounds like The Velvet Underground and Nico getting caught up in and subsequently wriggling free of a cartoon keyboard maelstrom, and “Through the Mill”, the minor-key fingerpicking of which eventually incorporates what sounds like a piano tumbling gently down an ornate staircase, not to mention an exquisitely Siren-esque round of aaahhh vocables. Sailors be warned.
As if determined not to lumber this commendably concise collection with its second track to run over five minutes (most of them clock in at around three), “Ploughing Out” is served in two parts, the first of which exudes the kind of gentle elegance that Rhys displayed on his Hotel Shampoo album of last year, the second of which has become a disorderly coming together of keyboards and saxophone.
CYRK is quite an odd, nocturnal little album, yet sufficiently rich in melody to capture hearts as well as imaginations. Splendid stuff.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!
CYRK is out now on Ovni. For more information, including a list of live dates, please visit catelebon.com