Cate Le Bon, “Rock Pool” [EP]

Cate Le Bon
Rock Pool EP
DRAG CITY
7/10

Cate Le Bon’s music lives in an alternate universe—one that’s nearly identical to ours, but laden with a persistent feeling of anxiety. A can’t-put-my-finger-on-it difference like that felt by Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) in Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973) just arriving at Summerisle. Hers is an alienating world where everybody is seemingly conspiring against the listener, and the subverted expectations are so normalized that the listener can forget other pop music even exists.

In 2016, the Welsh musician, now based out of Los Angeles, released Crab Day, her fourth full-length album, a record that built on her bizarro baroque pop sound and played out like an absurdist Ren Faire that recognizes electronics but only in the form of synthesized keyboards. Rock Pool is Le Bon’s follow-up EP recorded during the same sessions, like a casual mid-year LARP meetup between giant blowout festivals.

Coming in at four songs and just over fourteen minutes, Rock Pool begins with grainy guitar tones and Le Bon’s declaratively luscious vocals on “Aside from Growing Old.” She sounds as if she’s acting out all the parts of a Nico-era Velvet Underground song while adding an awkwardly befitting synth line that entangles itself in the song’s verses. The closer, “I Just Wanna Be Good,” slows down the tempo on the B-side, but continues regardless with the type of psychedelic rock that truly succeeds in baffling, in lieu of descending into the over-saturated genre of fractal-bros who want to show you their sweet new pedal board. Le Bon’s voice consistently soars with a sense of uncomfortably honest personality, and as an EP Rock Pool goes beyond the trap of feeling like a placeholder between album years.

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