Some great Reward from Cate Le Bon

Reward Cate le BonWritten during a self-imposed exile to Cumbria, the lonely, rural environment of the Lakes District informs Cate Le Bon’s brilliantly crafted new album, Reward. Even the electronic instruments that ebb and flow around her voice take on a pastoral vibe and lead you into a deeply textured world that stirs a yearning for personal solitude. Unsettling the paradigm of popular music, much like Talk Talk once did with Spirit of Eden, Le Bon has crafted an entire new world where art and pop intermingle without concern about how the relationship should unfold.

Laced with unusual instrumentation and unexpected shifts in tone, Le Bon never stays in one place for long. The slow surge of “Daylight Matters” laps at our feet until we lie down, willing to drown in the melody if that's what she wants from us. The fairly straightforward pop of “Home To You” still manages to feel unsettling and mysterious, a sleight of hand the likes of David Bowie made sound so easy. Le Bon conjures the spirit of such rarified artists on Reward.

During her year-long exile, Le Bon studied woodworking and the physicality of the craft bleeds into the music. No sound feels out of place and even the slow fade-outs feel carefully measured. Nothing is left to chance because even one wrong joint could lead to a total collapse of what she's building. One imagines Le Bon adding each sound to the mix and then considering it with the careful attention of a loving parent.

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When she sings “never be the same again” on opening track “Miami”, Le Bon gives us a tiny hint of her intent. Written on piano instead of guitar, the album feels unlike anything she has done before. The faster you peel away the layers in the music, the faster new ones appear. The sonic palette feels infinite in possibility but constantly intimate. Le Bon’s emotions are always nearby, dressed up in the ever-changing tones of her poetry.

The stop-start bursts of horns that bring the album to a conclusion on “Meet the Man” are startling, like waking from a daydream and not realising where you are. Did “Sad Nudes” just bring me to tears? Why does “Magnificent Gestures” create nervous dizziness in my stomach? The emotional reaction to the music can overwhelm the listener if you join Le Bon in her place of solitude. With Reward, Le Bon has created an album so detailed that we might not fully experience it in this lifetime.

Release: 24th May 2019, Mexican Summer

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