Even at her sweetest, Welsh avant-pop artist Cate Le Bon is always wilfully opaque. This, her sixth album, is even murkier than before. There’s nothing as driving here as Mother’s Mother’s Magazines or even Sisters.
What there is instead feels like a series of dizzy spells, which seems appropriate for our weird and frightening times. Two of her regulars are back: Stella Mozgawa from Warpaint is on jagged percussion and Stephen Black, aka Sweet Baboo, provides some eerie clarinet and saxophone, particularly effective on the Ashes to Ashes wooziness of Running Away.
Moderation is more folky and Le Bon is somewhat lighter in tone here, but the sense of being outside/other pervades. The crumbling empire of the title may be a statement on how our world is going, but her underwater keyboards, jarring guitar lines and dual vocals point to an eternal dialogue with herself, notably on the Kate Bush-esque coo and glower of Remembering Me.
The title track is like a sea shanty with chamber pop seeping through and French Boys feels like a warped nursery rhyme. It’s all playing with genre and form.
Hypnotic and dreamy, few navigate choppy indie pop waters as well, or with such duality. We can only hope for a soft landing upon waking up.
Out now via Mexican Summer