The seven-song EP finds Le Bon and Cox inhabiting a purposely rough-around-the-edges creative zone that feels equal parts bare and hallucinogenic.
Welsh artist Cate Le Bon and Deerhunter/Atlas Sound mastermind Bradford Cox haven’t been collaborating for long, but as soon as Le Bon co-produced Deerhunter’s Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?, it was clear they made a stellar team. Each has an affinity for isolation: Le Bon went days without speaking to anyone while writing her most recent album, while Cox has stated that he prefers to be left alone. They even share a sophisticated fashion sense: Cox walked the runway for Gucci, while Le Bon has noted her preference for dressing French. Their latest release, Myths 004, is the fourth in Mexican Summer’s ongoing series in conjunction with the annual Marfa Myths festival in the Texas desert. The setting provided these two artists with the isolation they love, and while the outfits they wore during recording remain undisclosed (pics please!), the seven-song EP finds Le Bon and Cox inhabiting a purposely rough-around-the-edges creative zone that feels equal parts bare and hallucinogenic.
The bare bits, by the way, have nothing to do with silence or minimalism. Myths 004 is a noisy little album, noisier in fact than just about anything the two have put out on their own or with their bands. Electric guitars buzz and distort effortlessly on the short and mostly instrumental track “Constance,” where we also hear some James Chance-style frantic saxophone ramblings, muffled shouting and zigzagging layers of off-kilter percussion. “Jericho,” another blink-and-you’ll-miss-it semi-instrumental, features a barking dog as the backbone of its beat and then stirs in more wild sax, an endlessly repeating piano note (think the opening few seconds of Kanye’s “Runaway,” on speed) and some kind of indecipherable, robotic vocals.
But the near-chaos is nakedly, necessarily honest. Le Bon and Cox (along with White Fence’s Tim Presley, Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa, Sweet Baboo’s Stephen Black and band-free Samur Khouja) wrote and recorded the EP’s seven songs in just seven days. The two wisely refrain from trying to hide any seams, with mesmerizing and sometimes hilarious results. “What Is She Wearing,” for example, features Le Bon narrating a no-frills, shitty day in the life. Here, a crowd of people stand and stare at Le Bon’s terrible Nike t-shirt after she takes off her jumper. “It says ‘Just do it’/ But I don’t want to do it,” she asserts. And this is after she’s stepped in gum and forgotten to bring a bag with her to the grocery store. The track plays out like an alternate reality Funk Flex freestyle, where the goal isn’t clever wordplay or elaborate rhyming but deadpan realism and where a set of clanging, proto-punk guitars and (eventually) some blank-faced percussion take the place of a hot beat.
The record still allows room for plenty of role-play, storytelling and dreaming. Stoner ballad “Canto!” allows Cox to take on the part of aging, leather-clad biker (“Come ride with me, baby/ I’m long in the tooth”), while melodically languid “Secretary” gives Le Bon a chance to consider all the mundane labor involved in the job (“Can I take some time?/ Can you stay on hold?/ Take a holiday/ Make amendments”). On the same track, Cox provides a spoken-word bridge that imagines assistant position as existential reverie: “Mascara brushed across the plains/ All of the phone calls you made disconnected,” he begins. Even weirder is the avant-pop of “Fireman,” where Le Bon sings about putting out fires (fingers crossed that they didn’t turn her furniture to ash) while Cox speaks from the perspective of a fireman who recalls a blaze that killed a whole family on Christmas Eve. But, hey, at least the puppy survives!
Le Bon and Cox don’t take any of this too seriously, but they don’t shy away from pointing us towards big ideas, either. Myths 004 is an ode to exhaustion, a study in what happens to the brain when it lacks the time to rest. Chaos emerges. Visions appear. Inspiration arrives. Shit happens. The final product isn’t a polished, carefully connected group of songs. But that’s the fun and the freedom of it. The strength of the Myths series so far is that it gives artists an opportunity to see what sense they can make of cohabitation and co-creation in a very limited time. It’s to Le Bon’s and Cox’s credit that they drop the sense and stream us straight into their shared consciousness instead.