Cate Le Bon - CYRK

As an album that revels in subtlety.


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. Hawkline, members of Racehorses and Y Niwl and Gruff Rhys – whose Turnstile imprint Ovni is releasing the record.

In many ways, ‘CYRK’ can be described as Le Bon’s third album, as the first collection of songs for her debut album was initially scrapped for the wondrous acoustic oddities that ‘Me Oh My’ morphed into. ‘CYRK’ is less morbid, certainly – songs about burying dead pets have disappeared – yet it’s also a calmer, more controlled record. The album, named after the Polish word for ‘circus’, is surprising in the lack of extreme peculiarity that its title suggests, yet explanatory in the diversity of its duration. And while the title track lilts along nicely, it’s nothing compared to other more impressive tracks on the record, notably the crescendo of album opener ‘Falcon Eyed’ and the piano-driven debut single ‘Puts Me To Work’.

It’s in these songs that Le Bon’s varied voice really shine, showcasing the vast vocal range she can employ – high and intense in the synthesised ‘Julia’ and deep and multilayered in the choral ending of ‘Fold The Cloth’. Nowhere is the intense assortment of Le Bon’s skills emphasised more than on ‘Fold The Cloth’, the whole song mutating throughout, before ending in a surprising eruption of fuzzy guitar squeals. Meanwhile the record’s last two tracks, ‘Ploughing Out’ Parts 1 & 2, merge into one final song, showcasing the singer’s disposition for duality until the end.

Both on record and on stage there’s no doubting that Le Bon is a skilled musician, able to turn her hand to many an instrument with a deftness of touch. But much of the album’s strength lies in its subtle simplicity. There’s chaos amongst the calmness of tracks such as ‘Ploughing Out Part 1’ and ‘The Man I Wanted’, yet these moments of cacophony come most notably towards the endings of tracks such as ‘Greta’s startling conclusion, filled with free-styled trumpet scales and morose marching drums.

For all its playful charm, ‘CYRK’ is deliciously dark: it revels in its ability to marry calmness with the uncomfortable. Whether it’s the descending piano scales on ‘Through The Mill’, or the contrast of lyrical ideas – from ‘Falcon Eyed’s ending sentiments of “He’s more than a woman to me” to ‘Greta’s visceral, twisted lyrics: “Her baby days coiled up inside her like ribbons of time” – this album continually takes its songs into unforeseen, and often foreboding places.

As an album that revels in subtlety for its majority, it will be interesting to see which direction the music and melodies twist when Le Bon takes the record out on the road. She’s always been astonishingly louder live, and after her recent tours with St. Vincent and Gruff Rhys and with upcoming dates alongside Perfume Genius, her profile as a solo artist is rightfully set to soar even higher.

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