Cate Le Bon


Reward, the new record by Cate Le Bon, finds the Welsh musician moving into ever stranger territory while summing up the best of all her previous records, finds Hayley Scott

There’s an unusually calm fluidity to Cate Le Bon’s fifth album. Reward was forged alone in the Lake District, giving her the opportunity to truly examine the self, without most of the usual distractions of modern life. The thematic framework of the record, then, is the notion of seclusion, and the madness that often comes with it. Comparatively, Reward sounds like the placid, more introspective counterpart to the restrained chaos that came before.

Reward cements Cate Le Bon’s place as a modern visionary: here, she takes apart traditional song structures and puts them back together again in ways others wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Her music has become increasingly eccentric over time, but Reward seems like a hybrid of all the best aspects of everything she’s ever done: the genteel folk of 2009’s Me Oh My lingers on ‘Meet The Man’ – a track that closes the album with affecting, awe-inspiring passion, not unlike the measured brilliance of Crab Day’s pinnacle ‘What’s Not Mine.’ Elsewhere, ‘Mother’s Mother’s Magazines’ wouldn’t sound out of place on a DRINKS release with its subtly wonky, no-wave disposition, and the sporadic dissonance of ‘Magnificent Gestures’ is indicative of various moments on 2016’s sublime Crab Day.

Cate Le Bon makes music in a pop idiom that’s also highly experimental in the same way, say, Paul McCartney and John Cale playfully dabbled in the absurd during their solo years. The inclusion of brass adds the same depth and warmth we got with Berlin-era Bowie, too.

Sometimes music can feel so in tune with your own emotions that it becomes all-consuming – overwhelming, even. It’s these moments – when a record speaks to you on a profound level – that are truly special. Of course, these are rare instances.

Cate Le Bon is well versed in the connection between music and emotion because it’s at the heart of everything she does. Reward is Cate Le Bon’s most emotionally astute record to date, and her melodic prowess is the strongest it’s ever been. With that, Reward sounds like a modern classic, because it has a longevity that very few records possess.

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today