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Published on June 14th, 2019 | by voxx

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Cate Le Bon – Reward

The Welsh explorer’s fifth LP is a sombre meditation on heartbreak and solitude…

For the duration of 2017 Cate Le Bon divided her time between two activities. By day, she learnt to carve wooden furniture. By night, she retreated alone to an isolated house in the Lake District, sitting up composing at the piano. While it would take a particularly keen ear to hear the impact of the former on the Welsh singer’s fifth album, an atmosphere of solitude and melancholic reflection hangs over Reward like drizzle over a hillside.

That’s not to say the quirks and kinks of Le Bon’s music have been sanded over – ‘Mother’s Mother’s Magazines’ clangs and honks along over what sounds like someone crunching Weetabix – but in place of the herky-jerkiness of previous records is a more stripped-back, sombre collection of songs.

Stately opener ‘Miami’ sets the tone, a procession of saxophones flanking Le Bon as she looks back to a life she no longer lives, and the tracks that follow see her taking stock, trying to rebuild and reassemble. The comparatively jaunty ‘Daylight Matters’ has her declaring her love for a departed partner, while the tick-tocking ‘Home To You’ mournfully bids farewell, its repeated “last time, for all time” refrain interjected by Le Bon quietly wailing.

Throughout, the cut-and-paste surrealism of Le Bon’s lyrics throws up glimpses of mundane loneliness: the unanswered calls from her mother on piano ballad ‘Sad Nudes’, the regurgitated self-help lines on the Beatles-y ‘The Light’ – “you must exercise… you must die a little… get to work.” No matter her mood, Le Bon can create a world that feels sealed away from outside influences. It’s undoubtedly a sad voice she presents on Reward, but one that is unlike anyone else’s.

- By Jake White


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