Cate Le Bon — Crab Day (April 15, 2016) Location: Los Angeles, California
ƒ It’s ambitious return from the artist. While the album has a post~punk angularity about it in places, it’s post~punk as reimagined by Bagpuss creator Oliver Postage. Songs such as ‘Find Me’ and ‘Yellow Blinds, Cream Shadows’ have a charming home~made feel to their lopsided gearshifts, jerky movements and quirky surrealism. It’s eccentric and off~kilter but pop in a perfect way a la Robert Wyatt and Gruff Rhys.
Album released: April 15, 2016
Studio: Panoramic House, Stinson Beach, California
Genre: Neo~psychedelia, indie, popart pop
Record Label: Turnstile/Caroline International/Drag City
01. Crab Day 3:49
02. Love Is Not Love 3:02
03. Wonderful 2:37
04. Find Me 2:51
05. I’m a Dirty Attic 3:06
06. I Was Born on the Wrong Day 2:18
07. We Might Revolve 3:48
08. Yellow Blinds, Cream Shadows 4:03
09. How Do You Know? 3:25
10. What’s Not Mine 7:27
• Cate Le Bon — writing, guitar, piano (1, 2, 6), percussion (6, 9, 10), synthesizer (4, 5, 7), marimba (3, 8)
• Josiah Steinbrick — bass (6), piano (3, 10), percussion (6, 9)
• Stephen “Sweet Baboo” Black — bass (1~5, 7~10), clarinet (1, 8, 10), saxophone (2~4, 6~10)
• Huw Gwynfryn Evans — guitar (1~3, 6, 9, 10), marimba (7, 10), synthesizer (4, 10)
• Stella Mozgawa — drums (1~5, 7~10)
• Josiah Steinbrick — production
• Noah Georgeson — production, mixing
• Samur Khouja — engineering
• JJ Golden — mastering
• Isabel Vollrath — kimono jacket
• Christian Fritzenwanker — make up
• Ivana Klickovic — cover photography, insert photography
• H. Hawkline — sleeve
≥ Rough Trade Albums of the Year 2016 #89
by Laura Snapes, APRIL 15 2016; Score: 8.1
•♣• On her fourth album, the Welsh singer Cate Le Bon establishes a strange, almost Dadaist lyrical scheme to make sense of some unnamed life rupture that’s left her gasping.
Cate Le Bon’s young niece did not take kindly to the idea of April Fool’s Day. Instead, she declared, she would be celebrating Crab Day, and inaugurated an annual tradition of drawing crustaceans. And why the heck not? The budding surrealist realized early on that nonsense is often the best response to nonsense, that the constructs we use to prop up our lives are often totally arbitrary.
•♣• Named for her niece’s flash of genius, Le Bon’s fourth album features a song where the Welsh songwriter adopts an eerie falsetto and sings that she was born on the wrong day. A few years ago, her mum unearthed her birth certificate, and admitted to her daughter that they’d had her birthday a day off for nearly three decades. That sense of misaligned reality is the guiding force on Crab Day, where Le Bon establishes a strange, almost Dadaist lyrical scheme to make sense — or make more nonsense — of some unnamed life rupture that’s left her grasping. Her perception is muddled, but in her solemn voice, everything appears clear: “I’m gonna cry in your mouth,” she sings, like that’s a perfectly sensible thing to do.
•♣• Last year, Le Bon released Hermits on Holiday, a collaborative album with White Fence’s Tim Presley under the name Drinks. It pushed her usual pastoral post~punk into hairy, deep~fried territory; the only rule of its creation was that there were no rules. Le Bon has said that it revived her creativity going into Crab Day, which she recorded with her regular Welsh comrades Huw Evans (aka H. Hawkline) and Stephen Black (Sweet Baboo), and Warpaint drummer Stella Mozgawa. Things aren’t as freeform here, but in the absence of her lovely, weathered old melodies, nothing feels quite as it should be; the sound is as precisely off~kilter as touch~typing while gazing out of the window, then looking at the screen to find you’ve been one key to the left all along. From neatly squawking guitar, curiously skittish marimba, and wry saxophone parps, LeBon forges a chaotic cubist cabaret.
•♣• It’s unsettling, but Le Bon’s sensitivity to shifts in tone and pace, and the strange interplay between her players, make Crab Day feel welcoming, like an old house whose creepy anachronisms become a strange comfort. A good half of its songs wed burbling guitar parts to stark, straight~shooting rhythms, and verses landslide into choruses where her vocals cascade like sycamore leaves, but they establish and normalize Le Bon’s uncanny universe, and aren’t without their individual touches: the feral cat guitar mewl of “What’s Not Mine;” what could be a maniac bashing on a metal trap door in the midst of “I Was Born on the Wrong Day.”
•♣• Crab Day’s primitivism hasn’t totally sacrificed her lovely, lilting melodies, which are filled with remorse on “Love is Not Love,” and sad acceptance on “What’s Not Mine.” And she’s transmuted the overly literal aggression of “Wild,” from 2013’s Mug Museum, into songs that pulse with weird rushes of adrenaline. With its racing verses and ambient chorus, “Wonderful” perfectly captures both the mania and distraction of being thrown for a loop, and “We Might Revolve” makes a horror film out of needling marimba and Le Bon’s observation that “all the towns are miniature,” which she delivers with the stern paranoia of a stoner certain they've seen something sinister in their domestic surroundings.
•♣• As much as Le Bon’s expression on Crab Day feels abstract and alienating, it also speaks to a deep intimacy — perhaps one that’s been lost and provoked all this discombobulation in the first place. Mug Museum made an emotional archive out of the dirty cups she collected in her room. Here, she ascribes impenetrable significance to inanimate objects — she feels like geometry, a dirty attic, and a humid satellite in the face of a lover — but struggles to rationalize the basics of human connection: She and the subject of her address routinely look through each other, the effect like a love story pieced together through split screen. “How would I know you really swim in me?” she asks on “How Do You Know?” “How would I know to stay?”
•♣• Crab Day is a voyage into doubt led by a queasy compass, and a ringleader who’s prepared to stake out uncertain territory. Le Bon always keeps you guessing, making the old traditions of guitar~oriented rock feel arbitrary, too. Her nervy assessments of the world are filled with equal parts suspense and heart, and beautifully zany riffs, where the feeling of being frayed by uncertainty comes together into a strangely comforting patchwork. •♣• https://pitchfork.com/
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