Cate Le Bon “CYRK” – #RECORDclub 1

The Future Heart #RECORDclub - a discussion on twitter about new albums, and a way to discover the free streams most worthy your time - was launched in January 2012 with Cate Le Bon’s CYRK.  Like all #RECORDclub selections, a stream of it was linked on twitter to listen to the full album, for free.  

Take a listen to CYRK  at Paste (or here) and then join in a discussion with other fans by tweeting your reactions of the album or its songs with the hashtag #RECORDclub.  The intention is to create dialogue like those in local “book clubs” – but for music not books, and using social media instead of coffee klatsches.  Check this blog and FutureHeartDay to read what other are tweeting. 

Here’s CYRK‘s tracklist followed by tweets for each song: 
1. Falcon Eyed
2. Puts Me To Work
3. Cyrk
4. Julia
5. Greta
6. Fold The Cloth
7. The Man I Wanted
8. Through The Mill
9/10. Ploughing Out parts (1 and 2)

Now is not a good time to leave me on my own
I neither will then be a good time
I’ve always loved the movement of the trees
Find me a place where I can watch the breeze

I’m counting the minutes 1, 2, 3 and 4… 

…Find me a place where little birds fly by

Her playground, her courtyards are out of this world
You can realign light but you can’t tame the girl
And her eyes are the size of lagoons all dreaming and wild

In the morning the universe shines from under her skin
The delicate pattern of places she’s been
Her baby days coiled up inside her like ribbons all tied
Greta be good to yourself for goodness sake

You existed in moonlight/ before you were born
On the turn of each calendar/ inside and outside
Observatories clocked you in stars/ they were holding so dear
Greta be good to yourself/ you’ve always been here

Grow your hair longer/ It’s easy to in summer
When the days fold under

If it pours in the daytime/ We’ll have to stay indoors
I’ll milk the time you sat with me

What I hoped for most
Was to be his greatest host
He’d make my hands his home
The man I wanted

“Where is the pain?,” I weeped/ “How does the opposite feel?”
Well you will never show me

Autumn was so nice
We’re rolling into winter
The pleasure is all mine
Still feels more than twice
The man I wanted

When I saw you die the death
Whilst beating animal
I ran to approach the poachers’ nest
To strip them of their epaulet

You really are the maddest beast
I’ve ever seen before
Three hundred pounds wrapped in my cave
We going to an island

I packed you up with trophy bones
And bridged you on the peak
We stayed to watch the ships come in
And drank to when the chase felt good

I really could not leave him there
They put him through the mill
I rode back home to tell my friends
The moon it makes the wine taste sweet

Once I heard the reason
To fall outside of season
A gentle, gentle coast
Towards the lookout post
On the last day of the year
I’m just happy to be here
Looking at the leaves of time
In my mind

In my mind plans are real
Ploughing out across the fields
Holding court for miles around
Finding out it’s only sound

Once I heard the handle
It’s part strong out the tangos
The gentle, gentle shift
Sent toward him tender drift
And on the worst day of his life
He’d still love more things than I like
Taping melodies of times
In his mind…

When it goes off we’ll be the last bomb down, down here
My love is wrong you’ll be the ringing in my ear
Steering me right…
…Still we never say we die

Have something to say about CYRK, any of the songs, or any other new album?  Tweet with hashtag #RECORDclub.

Want more?  Download Cate’s “Puts Me To Work” for free (and legal), or buy the full album from iTunes, Amazon, Insound, The Control Group or eMusic.  CYRK is available on limited-edition vinyl, 300 hand-numbered copies available from The Control Group and Insound.

Watch Cate’s “Fold The Cloth” video on vimeo, or at promonews.tv with notes from its director, Ryan Owen.  And once again, you can download Beyond Beyond is Beyond for free.

Since I can’t get enough, here’s some other thoughts.
Seemingly every review of CYRK fixates on three reference points:
  1. Her connections to Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys
  2. Her recent tour opening for St Vincent (Annie Clark being so taken, she invited Cate to sing during St Vincent’s sets)
  3. …and, most of all, the similarly of her singing to Nico’s

Nico broke the molds of being a female singer in the 1960s.  Not a smiling songbird or sexy chanteuse, Nico’s somewhat cold, but strangely seductive singing remains the definitive dark femme fatale voice – perfect for Lou Reed’s black angel death songs.  Cate has a similar quality.

In an interview with Young Hollywood last spring Cate admitted her intentions for her “Hollow Trees House Hounds” music video: “I was quite keen to go down a route that was kind of opposite to the female singer-songwriters…and try to steer away from cutesy folk images.”  The same is true of CYRK.

At the start of 2012, there’s been a lot of new albums by “the female singer-songwriters.”  For some perspective, compare how far off course Cate is from these:

The more important point isn’t that Cate’s non-American accent, flat phrasing (especially in her lower register), death lyrics, and idiosyncratic chilly-but-enchanting delivery reminds of Nico, but that she dares to stray from familiar paths (and in doing so has set herself up to be compared to the few before her that have done similar).

The musical touchstones dig much deeper than the Super Furries and the Velvets.  Cyrk - which means “circus” in Polish – is like the Big Top of cool noise, a record collector’s wet dream of sounds ala Syd Barrett, Olivia Tremor Control, Os Mutantes, Stereolab, Faust, Pavement, Can, Broadcast, et al.  To reduce CYRK to the work of others in your vinyl collection though is to hear it only on the most superficial level. 

Ultimately Cate defines CYRK not through her singing, but through her writing and arranging.   So if CYRK must be matched with a reference point, it shouldn’t be Nico, but quirky idols like Stephen Malkmus or (especially) Syd Barrett (who she has covered on record).  But even these comparisons only go so far. 

CYRK shines not for passing resemblances in her voice (to Nico) or even writing (to Syd, or whoever…), but for every song having its own personality - without being smothered by the pretentiousness of “persona” so rampant in contemporary culture.  She doesn’t put out, she lures in listeners with her music’s unique charms.  And it most definitely is her charms…

Every track develops by its own logic, and there lies the brilliance of Cate and her band.  Some of the rhythms are played loose, others stiffly jib and jab at your ears.  There’s hooks galore, but they rarely end where they seemed to be bound.  And though the song forms often stray into unforeseen territories, it’s remarkably focused for such a playful, wide-eyed, unruly album.

Cate supposedly writes her songs in the dark.  That’s not surprising, still CYRK glows with quirkily crafted arrangements, paced with a variety of moods, tempos and sonic colors.  The entire album passes before the listener can attempt to process sense of it.  Listening to it is as laid-back as as watching the breeze – to paraphrase the title-track – but it’s existential exuberance entices close, repeated listens.  Most of all, Cate’s catchy and off-kilter melodicism makes this album hard to forget.  It’s infectious and addictive.  The songs stick in your head, even if your brain can’t quite comprehend them…
 … craving obsession…

2 responses to “Cate Le Bon “CYRK” – #RECORDclub 1

  1. Pingback: Hear The Beatles’ New Albums « Psych Explorations of the Future Heart·

  2. Pingback: Introducing…The Record Club « Psych Explorations of the Future Heart·

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