Cate Le Bon and Bradford Cox – ‘Myths 004’ review: tuneless self-indulgence and chaos from two indie heroes

Score

Part of a collaboration series that pairs likeminded musicians, this is a promising team-up that, though spotted with brightness, often veers into an unlistenable cacophony

Here it is: perhaps the most anticipated release of Mexican Summer’s ‘Myths’ collaborations series, whereby the indie label invited collaborators to put theirs heads together in the creative hub of Marfa, Texas (Weyes Blood and Ariel Pink produced ‘Myths 004’, for instance).

It’s not an unexpected pairing; Cate Le Bon produced Deerhunter’s 2019 record ’Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?’ and both musicians admired each other’s work before finally meeting in 2018. ‘Myths 004’ is the product of the duo “embracing the chaos” of a week’s writing off the back of Mexican Summer’s Marfa Myths festival held in Texas last year.

A dream collaboration between some of indie’s most revered and somewhat experimental artists (who are joined, in part, by Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa and White Fence’s Tim Presley) sadly doesn’t deliver. There’s synergy between the two musicians’ penchant for peculiar pop – a unity in timbre, for instance – but their hastily crafted and often displeasingly dissonant experiments do little to inspire or indulge the listener.

Like much of the EP, opener ‘Canto!’ allows a tuneless cacophony to ruin otherwise acceptable music. Honky-tonk piano and surf rock guitars jumble together nicely against Cox’s lyrics about an accident-prone biker who’s “long in the tooth”. Before long, though, a discordant, ramshackle affair unfurls and, well, it makes you want to turn the whole thing off. The same goes for the nursery rhyme fodder of ‘Fireman’.

Thank goodness, then, for ’Secretary’. Here, Le Bon positions herself as a bored office worker who’s stuck in a cycle of carrying out mundane tasks. Her clockwork routine is intelligently played out at the chorus (“Can I take some time? / Can you stay on hold?”). The lyrics “time” and “hold” are pinned by a higher octave harmony that duly chimes with the track’s metronomic clicks and piano pulses. Later, Cox’s spoken-word monologue about escaping such humdrum borders on cringe. Musically, though, ’Secretary’ is the song you’re most likely to return to.

‘Constance’, the only track that uses electronics more prominently, is another highlight: a melodious, zippy instrumental that syncopates eight-bit pentatonic synths, shuffled beats and descending scale marimba notes together beautifully. Closing song ‘What Is She Wearing’ is a maddening, oddball punk track in which Le Bon adopts a passable French accent to portray a pedantic fool who’s disgruntled by such things as paying five pence for a shopping bag.

‘Myths 004’ certainly hits the mark for “embracing the chaos” as a “crude holiday scrapbook”, as they promised in a release accompanying the EP. But is it actually an enjoyable listen? Not really.

Details

Release date: November 1
Record label: Mexican Summer, LLC