Cate Le Bon Cyrk II Review

Released 2012.  

BBC Review

A second helping of Cyrk, accentuating the dreamier haunts of part one.

Martin Aston 2012

The water system feeding Canterbury in the late-60s seems to have been re-directed to Wales in recent times. The strains of Syd Barrett, Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt, each distinctly defining British psychedelia’s first wave, can be found in the DNA of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynki, Super Furry Animals and now the Penboyr-born Cate Le Bon, who embodies that same strange fusion of beauty, strangeness and charm.

SFA’s Gruff Rhys is Le Bon’s champ: he first saw her play in 2007 and immediately invited her on tour, and has since released her albums on his own imprints. He’s also ace at describing her: “Bobbie Gentry and Nico fight over a Casio keyboard; melody wins!” But that’s only part of her mercurial talent.

For starters, few name albums after the Polish word for ‘circus’. Five months after the original – and sublime – Cyrk, here’s part two, which accentuates part one’s slower, dreamier haunts, like the slowly revolving colour-faded carousel of a circus fairground.

But the essentials remain: that spellbound, stately diction (hence the Nico comparison, but a lot warmer; hence the Gentry comparison) slotting intuitively among vintage keyboards and stroked guitars, with threads of The Fall, the Velvets and Tropicália. And more songs, as is Le Bon’s habit, about the sea.

What Is Worse doesn’t appear to be one of them, though, but its ushers in all of Le Bon’s strengths. The Eiggy Sea is especially spectral, raising a femme fatale-style glimmer, while the lilting That Moon double-tracks Le Bon’s precise voice as a fuzz-phased guitar hovers beneath. This breaks free to take over the following Seaside, Lowtide, with its, yes, mood of out-of-season seaside sadness. The closing finale January sounds like Seaside, Lowtide part two, psych guitar and all, winding its blissful way toward a sudden, faster coda.

Like Cyrk, each track is a perfectly formed miniature ride, destination unknown. It’s comforting to know that Le Bon is gifted enough to conform to convention if she wanted, making mainstream radio her target, but instead chooses to sound like this: utterly, and wonderfully, herself.

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