What a delight to wake up on a Friday morning to be able to listen to what Cate Le Bon did next. A Reward indeed, (as that's the name of her new album), the promise of a Bank Holiday stretching before me. Le Bon has a distinctly strange vision ,and I wondered in advance of her record this time whether she'd be able to recast it into new shapes while remaining true to herself. To keep the listener interested and surprised.
I'm so pleased to be able to report that this is exactly what she's done. Even more so that from the opening notes of Miami, the first track of Reward, that this sounds to me like the best thing she's done. By now, five albums in, plus numerous side projects and collaborations, she's established a signature sound and a way of working for herself, but now the challenge is to keep that fresh. This is a s fresh as it comes. There's an altogether admirable virtuosity not to say audacity on show here.
On the cover of the record, Le Bon is shown in eye catching red, making her way down a rocky hillside. The image reminded me of Bowie in The Man Who Feel To Earth, one of the most 'otherly' moments in the whole of Pop history. Bowie is certainly a huge influence on Le Bon, I imagine she's listened to Hunky Dory specifically a thousand times. Not that Reward sounds particularly like it, at least on the surface, but it accepts that record's invitation to be utterly different from the herd and take pride in that difference.
Each track pleased me more than the last. Wonderful, found wisdom, lyrics that make little sense, but actually do. In an effort to keep her vision fresh, Le Bon prepared for making the record by living in isolation in Stavely in the Lake District, re-training in furniture design and then, when she was ready to set her songs down relocating to Panoramic House a residential mountain studio overlooking the ocean in California.
Unorthodox methods that bear strange but juicy fruit. While I was seeing Aldous Harding at the Cluny in Ouseburn last Sunday evening, (apt really as Harding is a similar artist in many respects), a woman came round brandishing flyers for Le Bon's own performance there later this autumn. I've seen her play there before but having heard these songs, this wonderful kooky package, I'll have to go again, just to see them unwrapped again in the flesh. This is an altogether astonishing record from the leftfield. Just when I thought she couldn't surprise me again, she does just that. Cate Le Bon learns to accept her reward.