Marfa, Texas continues to be a place of inspiration for Cate Le Bon and Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox. Deerhunter wrote and recorded their most recent album, this year’s Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?, in the ghost-like West Texas town during a residency with Le Bon, who co-produced the album and played harpsichord on “Death in Midsummer.”
Originally, Le Bon and Cox were matched by Mexican Summer, to whom they’re both signed, as part of the label’s collaborative Myths EP series. (Previous pairings have included Ariel Pink and Weyes Blood, Dungen and Woods, and Connan Mockasin and Dev Hynes.) But the sessions were interrupted by the making of WHEAD. Once they completed it, though, Le Bon and Cox stayed in Marfa for another week to finish their EP. They also found collaborators in Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint, Stephen Black of Sweet Baboo, Tim Presley of White Fence, and Samur Khouja.
Cox described their process as a “free art approach.” They used whatever was at their disposal, which, until the rest of Deerhunter showed up with their regular gear, was limited to an altered piano and miscellaneous items.
The spirit of improvisation and vacation with friends can be heard and felt in the EP’s seven tracks. Myths 004 is carefree and free-roaming, childlike and lighthearted in its frivolity; a sense of wonder and exploration abounds. Together, Le Bon, Cox, and their friends capture their halcyon days spent in a halcyon daze.
Loping opener “Canto!” is as conventional as Myths 004 gets, except maybe “Secretary,” a send-up of office life. “All of the phone calls you made, disconnected,” Cox sings, describing an office-worker’s paradise.
But from then on, the wheels come loose. “Companions in Misfortune” is a free-jazz-rock jam. Le Bon mumbles in the background. Sax phases in and out of clarity while hypnotic drums and guitar take centre stage. This track, which is more of an interlude at less than two minutes long, calls to mind the meanderings of Pere Ubu. Meanwhile, “Jericho,” at only 29 seconds long, is even more of an interlude. But it’s pure play – or nonsense, depending on how one feels about clatter for clatter’s sake. Dogs bark, car horns honk, the same keyboard chord clangs repeatedly, and mumbo jumbo dribbles out of, presumably, Cox’s mouth.
“Constance” counterbalances the brevity of “Companions” and “Jericho.” For six minutes, soggy and toy-like percussion mix together and beat on wordlessly. “Constance” is immediately followed by the jarring “Fireman,” an anomaly amongst all the lighthearted fare. Here, Le Bon says, “I am a fireman, putting out fires, man.” As she repeats this single line throughout the song, a pitch-shifted firefighter recalls his career and details one particularly gruesome story of a family who lost their home to a blaze on Christmas eve. “The family didn’t make it,” the firefighter reveals.
Most off-kilter and freewheeling of all is “What Is She Wearing?.” In spoken word, Le Bon shifts between first and third person while rambling about mundane, daily inconveniences and acts of rudeness. She nearly gets doored. She steps in gum. She forgets her reusable grocery bag, so she has to pay five pence for a plastic one. She’s mocked for her messy nest hair and habit of not wearing shoes when she leaves the house.
Despite its 26 minutes, Myths 004 blows by like a tumbleweed: it’s tangled, frazzled, and follows no set course. Time flies when you’re having fun, and judging by Myths 004, Le Bon and Cox’s week probably felt like a blink.
review by Leslie Chu