Hermits On Holiday (Heavenly)
To say the partnership of Welsh alt-pop chanteuse Cate Le Bon and SoCal psych revivalist Tim Presley is an unlikely one would be a vast understatement. Not only do their musical approaches seem, on the face of it, to have little in common, but there’s the small fact that there literally sits an ocean of distance between them.
When Presley opened up for Le Bon at one of her US shows a few years ago, a friendship between the two soon sparked and the discussions of collaboration soon followed. The process has been gradual one, but Le Bon and Presley managed to solidify the project under the name DRINKS (so called because of their shared obsession with keeping hydrated) and the duo have now unleashed the culmination of their efforts in the form of Hermits On Holiday. And the term ‘unleashed’ is appropriate because at the heart of Hermits On Holiday lies a feral nature.
Opener ‘Laying Down Rock’ shambles along with a raggedy riff that shakes with an untouchable 60s wiggle, and Presley’s enigmatic lyrics are delivered with a style that sees him pushing his voice in a slightly richer direction than on his usual White Fence output. The slick ‘She Walks So Fast’ swaggers with an inherent punk attitude and ‘Focus On The Street’ wouldn’t be out of place hanging out in the dirty lo-fi backstreets of London’s early 80s punk scene, probably clutching a disheveled copy of Sniffing’ Glue.
‘Hermits On Holiday’ showcases DRINKS at their ramshackle, quirky best as Le Bon’s distinctive vocals elevate themselves over the simple, cyclical guitar line and minimal cowbell percussion that builds into an outbreak of tightly wound, infectious skiffle.
As you might expect, DRINKS have no problem with amping up the ‘weird’ on this album. ‘Tim, Do I Like That Dog’ serves as a six-plus minute improvised jam of skeletal bass and drum noodling interspersed with intense echo-chamber shredding, presumably courtesy of Presley. All of this is accompanied by Le Bon repeatedly asking Tim the central canine based question (the answer is “No”, just in case you were wondering).
Le Bon and Presley are clearly kindred spirits and Hermits On Holiday is a fine culmination of their DRINKS vision. It’s a surprising one, too, in that none of the songs on this album really sound like either artist. Le Bon and Presley have hit an unexpected middle ground that provides some engaging, if seriously strange, material.