Cate Le Bon: 24.Mar.2010 – New York

In an era that has seen the internet render any life an open book, maintaining an air of mystery is an underrated and refreshing quality to possess. Awarding more attention to the less flamboyant types has no great risk of becoming the norm anytime soon, but it does allow a little extra praise to be set aside for more shadowy artists.

On mystique alone then, Wales’ Cate Le Bon aced her New York City debut opening for Oh No Ono. With Le Bon on guitar—backed only by a second guitarist who brought enough androgyny to shame Ponytail’s Molly Siegal—Le Bon’s set was a no frills affair. Show goers were still filtering into the venue when Le Bon introduced herself and played her first few songs.

Le Bon is best known for her appearance on “I Lust U” by Neon Neon, the side project of Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys (whose label, Irony Bored, Le Bon is signed to) and electronic artist Boom Bip. Le Bon’s solo material is far more homespun than the sleek ’80’s iciness of “I Lust U”. Musically, each song Le Bon unfolded lay somewhere in between ’60s spy film soundtrack and folkish acoustic twanging, over which Le Bon trilled and enunciated. Le Bon’s voice is also absent of folky affectations; she sings cleanly and, again, with an effortless air of intrigue.

Likewise, her Welshness is fairly obscure. Le Bon’s songs reference mountains and other traits associated with her homeland, but really she could be singing about any rural area where something slightly unnerving is afoot. Having visions of The Wicker Man dance about one’s head as Le Bon sings her tales would not be unusual.

It is of course too soon to tell whether Le Bon will successfully charm the freak folk enthusiasts stateside. Although the lack of affectation on display was refreshing, Le Bon’s set, had it been longer, could have been in danger of growing too staid. However, as slow and steady has just as much a shot at winning the race as rapid and rash, maybe Le Bon will prove that subtle strangeness can also prevail.