Cate Le Bon

Me Oh My

As someone who spends most evenings chopping onions while listening to Marc Riley’s excellent BBC 6 show — the point where fey and oafish meet and get along — I have a somewhat skewed version of what’s happening in the wider world of music. In Lard’s world Fiery Furnaces bestride pop like colossi, the Brewis brothers’ doings are headline news and a succession of obscure hopefuls — often young women such Beth Jeans Houghton and Laura Gibson — achieve local celebrity long before the rest of the world discovers them.

Cate Le Bon isn’t quite as unknown, having popped up on last year’s well-received Neon Neon album, but Wales’ answer to Nico is so far a long way from famous, no matter how many evening plays she gets. Her debut album though, clocking in at a tidy 36 minutes, is never less than intriguing. In fact, at times it’s downright unsettling — check out the ominous, laborious ‘Terror of the Man’ and the bleak title track on which unashamed tinges of prog rock (ie monophonic synth lines) are filtered through a post-Super Furries pick and mix sensibility .

The Nico comparison isn’t simply down to Le Bon’s effortlessly chilly voice: songs such as ‘Sad Sad Feet’ twinkle like the Velvets’ gentler moments, instruments brushing along barely in tune. At other times her take on wyrd folk is more Black Angel’s Death Song than ancient murder ballads. ‘Hollow Trees House Hounds’ is maybe a touch too Furry for comfort, but it’s a rare aberration.

Most of the time Me Oh My is off-kilter in the most pleasing way, sweet, stark songs arranged so sparsely that they seem to offer endless potential, nearer to early Smog than contemporaries such as the beautifully doomy Espers. Anyone familiar with those Welsh Rare Beats compilations of seventies Welsh-language pop — wildly exotic sounds from just down the road that soundtracked the youth of Cymru kids while the English were served up Slade and Bolan and Bowie — will recognise this duality. Le Bon isn’t consciously trying to sound different. She just does, and effortlessly too.

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