Cate Le Bon’s cultural highlights

The psychedelic Welsh singer-songwriter on her favourite pioneering abstract art, a lakeside retreat and postapocalyptic mushrooms

Singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon was born Cate Timothy in 1983 in Penboyr, Wales. In 2008, she released a Welsh-language EP, followed the next year by her debut album, Me Oh My. She has made three further albums, including 2016’s critically acclaimed Crab Day. Le Bon has toured with artists including St Vincent, Perfume Genius and John Grant. Her fifth album, Reward, is out on 24 May on Mexican Summer; she tours the UK later this year.

1. Music
Mary Jane Leach

Mary Jane Leach’s album Pipe Dreams.
Mary Jane Leach’s album Pipe Dreams. Photograph: Mary Jane Leach/Blume

She’s a classically avant garde, experimental composer who was part of the 70s New York scene that people like Julius Eastman and Arthur Russell were also a part of. Her album Pipe Dreams, which was given to me recently when I was living on my own in the Lake District, became a soundtrack to the moments where I embraced the solitude of living somewhere quite secluded by myself. It has these beautiful drone sounds that interact with bass, and it adapts to your mood in a way. It’s completely transportive – an album to lose yourself in.

The cover of The Mushroom at the End of the World

2. Book
The Mushroom at the End of the World by Anna Tsing

I’m currently reading this book, which follows a matsutake mushroom, which is one of the most valuable mushrooms in the world and grows in the destruction and ruins of human disturbance. I’d been talking with my friend Bella about the power of mushrooms, then I saw this in a bookshop in New York and it caught my eye. It’s an anthropological and environmental study, but it’s almost written like a novel. It explores questions about how humans are going to survive in capitalist destruction, through collaborative survival and multi-species landscapes.

3. Art
Élisabeth Joulia

Elisabeth Joulia’s 1960s plant holder.
Elisabeth Joulia’s 1960s plant holder. Photograph:

Joulia was a French ceramic artist who joined a group of avant garde potters in the period following the second world war. The first piece of hers that caught my eye was a three-legged plant holder that looked like it had been drawn by a child. I stumbled across it on Pinterest and couldn’t stop looking at it. I then fell into the rabbit hole of her whole body of work. Her pieces seem to mock the utilitarian and stand alone as exquisitely beautiful pieces of art – I want to make music that sounds like her sculptures look.

4. Architecture
Frank Lloyd Wright

Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright home in Wisconsin.
Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright home in Wisconsin. Photograph: Morry Gash/AP

I’m a little bit obsessed with him at the moment. Last year I took a year off music to go and learn how to build furniture, and I kept coming back to his chairs as something I found really inspiring. Then I saw an amazing documentary about him that claimed his mother was born in Llandysul, which is where I went to secondary school, and I had no idea. There’s that collaborative thing in his work that really sings to me – that harmony with humanity and the environment, and his ethos to build something of the hill and not on the hill.

5. Film
The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976)

David Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton.
David Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton. Photograph: British Lion Films

I recently was taken to an old cinema in Atlanta to watch this. I hadn’t seen it before, and it resonated with me for weeks: it’s quite preposterous and absurd, but it’s a real picture of alienation juxtaposed with love and growth, and this exploration of losing your visibility even when you’re the focal point. There’s something so stark and brutal about the film. And also to watch it after Bowie’s death, it resonates a bit more, because it feels like there’s a little bit of his soul captured in the movie.

6. Place

Sunset over Windermere.
Sunset over Windermere. Photograph: Anna Stowe Landscapes UK/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy Stock Photo

When I was living in the Lake District I was having a bit of an imbalance, having moved somewhere and changed the architecture of my entire life. Somebody suggested I go and join a group of women who would meet at seven o’clock every morning and swim out to buoy 13 and back. It was amazing: the ceremony and the camaraderie of everyone meeting in these cold temperatures to then jump in an even colder lake. Every morning the lake would look completely different to the time before: sometimes pink and inviting, sometimes so hostile. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the cold, but there was something so beautiful about it.


Kathryn Bromwich

The GuardianTramp

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