Willie Reviews Cate Le Bon and Bradford Cox’s “Myths 004”

Willie Reviews Cate Le Bon and Bradford Cox’s “Myths 004”

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Cate Le Bon and Bradford Cox’s collaborative EP Myths 004 drags them both away from the ideal of a polished LP toward the evil terror of free improvisation! RPM’s review:

“Secretary,” the single from Cate Le Bon and Bradford Cox’s Myths 004 EP had me prepared for measured, quiet character pieces. It suggested a Weyes Blood piano ballad or a reserved offering from Le Bon. Yet I’m glad to see how badly I misjudged its place in the tracklist. Instead of a centerpiece representing the album in microcosm, “Secretary” is  simply the most cogent of a series of unhinged tracks built mostly on grooves and improvisation. All the themes of the album appear in “Secretary”—a surreal narrative applied in an unexpected place, two voices trading places, and emotional whiplash. This fourth EP in label Mexican Summer’s collaboration series arrives thanks to the artists’ mutual interest in the other’s work. They put it together in a week last year, and while that definitely shows, the record is all the better for it.

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One of the primary modes of Myths 004 is low stakes improvisation and invention. Because of the quick recording time, it feels as though we’re listening to everything they thought up—both the million dollar ideas and the entirety of the cutting room floor. I doubt either artist would include “Fireman” on one of their solo releases, but I’m so glad they did here. Over an industrial metal beating sound, Le Bon takes the center-left channel, and Cox takes the right channel. As Le Bon sings a flat refrain demonstrating her grasp on the definition and duties of a fireman (“I am a fireman / Putting out fires, man / Fire in the city / Fire in the house”) Cox monologues under cover of a voice modulator. Adopting the character of a grizzled firefighter, he speaks seemingly off the cuff about a tragic fire in his past. If this is indeed Cox telling this story, it’s an extreme dark humor and my laughter is justified. If this is somehow a real sample of a firefighter stumbling over his words, it becomes incredibly sad. But because it all happens within the confines of an upbeat song, I’ll stick with the former theory.

“Companions in Misfortune” represents a different kind of improvisation, one more in line with free jazz. The descending four-note groove invites squeals and chirps from every participant. This session could have been squared off and refined to a song more like the oeuvre of either artist, but it stays rough and wild. The theme takes on a new mood with every instrumental intrusion and change in group playing style. In the same way, “Constance,” which follows, plays with the groove. Constance may well stand for “constant circumstance,” as what we hear is the instantaneous velocity of the room. Though “Constance” is actually much cleaner and driven by a peppy synth, it dedicates itself to the same principles of new ideas. This effort works like a charm on a clipped, small-scale work like this.

Cate Le Bon & Bradford Cox - Secretary (Official Audio)

Though the project was conceived after the two met at the Marfa Myths Festival in Marfa, Texas, the sound is more punk than acid western. A single style doesn’t dominate, but a through line is the fresh energy injected into every track. “What is She Wearing” is a post-punk lament about “she” who doesn’t wear any shoes. Le Bon’s spoken word telling of her truest feelings toward this woman makes little sense at first, but it’s easy to agree the longer she brings up her concerns. She asks, “Oh, what do you know?” I know nothing, thankfully. Myths 004 is a delight for fans of both artists to see them roll in muck and produce something that would have been hard to guess.

Score: Falling off a horse from a standstill.

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