Hippo Lite, the second album from Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley‘s duo project DRINKS, is like diving into a strangely pastoral, sun-drunk dreamworld that’s equal parts Wes Anderson and Tim Burton. The album was recorded entirely in the South of France, with virtually no technology or contact with the outside world. It makes for a eerie, retro sound that’s difficult to place into any category at all—Hippo Lite sounds like a vintage record from the mid-60s that you might’ve found in a dusty box somewhere in your grandparents’ summer cottage, a mysterious memory of parties past in simpler times.
About the album, Cate Le Bon shares,
“A month spent in an old mill in the under belly of France.
River swimming thrice a day.
Hot nights soundtracked by the rattle of randy frogs. Scorpion fear. In the sheets, on the face.
Hours of bird watching – no phone service. No wifi. 3 DVDs; Jurassic Park 1, 2 & 3.
Violin practice. Bread scoffing.
Early morning coffee drinking before the sun was too hot to do anything but snooze in the thick walled house. Music in the afternoon after a dip in the river and a cold beer on the square.
An album made for each other by one another with no hands, eyes or ears piercing the bubble other than that of dear friend Stephen Black who kept note of it all.”
The staccato, note-taking nature of her description is paralleled in the vocals on Hippo Lite, with Le Bon’s soprano darting about like an eager hummingbird in your garden. Following up on Le Bon’s commentary, Tim Presley explains more about the making of Hippo Lite:
“In a town, so very still and quiet.
A month in St. Hippolyte Du Fort, South France.
Where completely all of their brave young men vanished forever from the death machine of the first world war.
At one time left with only women and young girls.
Only relics of time standing still.
All the deceased names of men chiseled under a stone angel, that watches over the town square.
We set up a recording unit in an old stone mill turned house and began to write and record with the attention of tree trimmers or gardeners.
It got so hot we had to swim in a local river near by just to be able to think, then back to our home to make sounds and songs. Any sounds we could think of or wanted.
We used night sounds, night insects and used frogs as instruments. Did you know frogs have saxophones in their throats?
This is a broken music. a crumble. It’s the music of the building we called home for a month. We’ve never made & recorded music in such a simple living environment.
With all the ease, and air we needed. We were in a town 8 miles over from Robert Crumb’s hidden residence.
We lived in a mysterious place.
We had a flock of bats over for dinner many nights. No internet, or a phone to look to.
We had a beautiful big stone house, a river, and from time to time a lovely elderly yet young-hearted couple who would visit.
It was the opposite of what a typical recording experience usually is for any of us.
We tried to capture all of this and put it on record.”
Hippo Lite is an album that upon first listen might be hard to get, but it’s trance-inducing nonetheless. As you continue to play it, you find yourself transported into the imaginary coastline of an in-between space, a sticky-hot, slightly maddening expanse of natural beauty that’s suspended between time periods. It’s a record that’s pulled me in further and further each time I revisit it, and I recommend you take the trip with me.
DRINKS’ Hippo Lite is out now on Drag City.