Standing outside the current musical landscape is the singular artist Cate Le Bon. In this solitary space she has carved a niche of left field music that draws on surrealism, post punk and melancholy slacker rock. Steadily she has built up a dedicated following who will be eagerly awaiting ‘Crab Day’, set to be released on April 14th. They have been promised a record of ‘inescapable feelings and fabricated nonsense’ and that is what they will get.
The album starts with ‘Crab Day’ thumping in your ears. Winding up the pressure it sets the scene for what this record is. Anxious, fast and rather aggressive. A mood most likely the product of Cate’s decision to support herself with a semi improvisational backing band known only as ‘the banana ensemble’. This improvised nature means the vast majority of this record can best be described as messy. But don’t let this description put you off. Crab Day may be messy but its a fascinating journey through the mind of Le Bon and her backing band. The irregular sounds bring colour to the record and an expression lacking from most mainstream albums.
Following ‘Crab Day’ comes ‘Love Is Not Love’. Here Cate slows things down to a tempo that reminds one of ‘Mug Museum’. The twangy guitars remain, the harmonics still ring out, and so too does that sultry, lyrical Welsh voice which does so much to draw you into her weird and wonderful world. But unlike the cohesive ‘Mug Museum’ this is a contradictory album and as soon as ‘Love Is Not Love’ ends it jars against ‘Wonderful’. A frantic, urgent song with a rhythm that makes you want to channel your inner Wilko Johnson and goose step to Cate’s surrealist beat.
Another frenzied number ‘We Might Revolve’ takes cues from John Cale era Velvet Underground. Distorted guitars building a melody from mess. ‘Yellow Blinds, Cream Shadows’ sees Le Bon exploring the surrealist exercise of putting unrelated words next to each other to create largely nonsensical sentences. It is on songs like these I question whether the lyrics are also semi-improvised. Either way it works really well and such an expression owes itself less to John Cale than to Welsh literary history and the work of compatriot Dylan Thomas. Sometimes with words and music it is the sound and feeling that is evoked rather than the meaning that matters and here Le Bon captures that sentiment perfectly.
Saving the best till last ‘What’s Not Mine?’ concludes the album in a holy mess. The robotic snare which has been prominent throughout the album serves to push the song forward, building it up till it explodes into this weird jazz like section where what sounds like a stylophone goes free form. The results are bizarre and utterly spectacular. The sort of madcap ending this record deserves. In sum, this is a contradictory and chaotic album but its refreshing to hear an album so playful, nonsensical and experimental. This will be a divisive album to many but if one likes St. Vincent and John Cale then I highly recommend entering the weird world of ‘Crab Day’ and seeing how it takes you.