The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Hippo Lite Diva Harris , April 17th, 2018 07:59

Out on Drag City, the second album from Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley - the king and queen of janky weirdo pop

From behind a slowly drawn pair of velvet curtains, flecked with motes of dust and moth wings, appears a cobbled town square in the south of France. Haphazardly handpainted scenery drops into place: a crumbling stone mill set against a green, rock-lined river. A gentle guitar melody wafts on a warm breeze, as if played by no one at all.

Here begins the radiant 35-minute product of a summer shared by the king and queen of janky weirdo rock, Tim Presley and Cate Le Bon. Their second offering as Drinks, the album is named for St Hippolyte-du-Fort, the phone- and wifi-free sanctum in which the pair dozed, swum, and noodled Hippo Lite into existence.

Drinks’s first album, 2015’s Hermits On Holiday, had skill, creativity, wit and two knockout singles, but there were points when its noisy freeform guitar strayed too far into Metal Machine Music territory for me. In the intervening years, a subtle shift has occurred: perhaps Presley and Le Bon have fallen in love? Perhaps - an endlessly more romantic notion - this is just what happens when two people manage to go a month without checking their emails. Speculation aside, whatever’s worked its magic on this creative partnership has done so like a warm room on cold butter: Hippo Lite is somehow softer, more palatable, indeed liter than Drinks’s previous output, but not at the expense of the punchy attitude, the sense of humour, which has made them so captivating from the beginning.

Hippo Lite’s sparser numbers, led by piano and pretty, almost mandolin-ish acoustic guitar (‘Blue From The Dark’, ‘In The Night Kitchen’ ’Greasing Up’) mutate into the pleasingly jangly, cartoon-spooky sound on single ‘Real Outside’, a Cate calling card of echoey voice and just-the-right-side-of-wonky riffs. Later comes the Hermits On Holiday-reminiscent ‘Ducks’, all yelping vocals and manic, layered fuzz. The whole lot is threaded together by recurrent John Cale strings and a smattering of found sounds: from creaking door through chattering bird, serenading frog and burbling human baby.

I recommend you take advantage of Drag City’s recent (and in some eyes, controversial) decision to make their long-absent catalogue accessible through Spotify, and I defy you not to find yourself yearning for this goddamn delectable cocktail - of sunned limbs, busted violins, warm croissants, cold rivers and spilt Pastis - in even more warmth, in heightened texture. You’ll be hot-footing it down to your local record shop by the third play.