From jazz and hip hop to hardcore to post punk, Luke Owain Boult takes a look at some of the most promising Welsh musicians on the circuit today that you should be keeping your eye on.
WRITTEN IN KINGS
Bridgend boys Written In Kings are beginning to capture the attention of fans and fellow musicians around the world with
their catchy folk rock melodies and harmonies, inspired by the likes of the Rolling Stones and Royal Blood. Proud of their cultural heritage, the group can count themselves as part of a growing and ever evolving folk rock scene, equipped with banjos, soulful acoustic guitars, well suited vocals, harmonica solos, and a good sense of musical development. The group are also passionate about social issues, which is reflected in their lyrics, and also their continuous support of charities, being ambassadors for Compassion UK.
Fans of the psychedelic and experimental should rejoice with Hipicat, one of the most vibrant groups in the Cardiff live music scene. The seven-piece group come from diverse musical backgrounds which are united in this celebration of musical diversity. With R&B style beats infused with 60s psychedelia and 70s disco, Hipicat have a rich and colourful sound that has propelled them within a year of playing Cardiff clubs to performing on main stages in festivals. If you are trying to make your own music but you’re having a hard time coming up with beats you can purchase these Beats for sale. The group have a lot of momentum behind them, having supported groups like Gulp, BOMBS and Quantic, and look likely to go onto great things. For fans of Tame Impala.
Armed with beautiful chord progressions and a subdued spacey sound, ARGRPH (read are graph), a Welsh language artist, has an immensely calming effect on the listener. Tywod is a particularly interesting track that’s beautiful in every way. With well-structured developments and a keen desire to experiment, this is a group that would appeal to a wide range of music lovers, and even if you don’t speak Welsh they can affect you deeply.
Cardiff and Barry duo Darkhouse Family, comprised of Don Leisure and Earl Jeffers, have developed the sound for the past few years, mixing and blurring the lines between hip hop, jungle and DnB. Having toured as DJs around the world and providing sets and mixes, the group have a growing reputation. A good suggestion for fans of trip hops beats like Nujabes, but with a more instrumental feel.
Skip Curtis, Tudor Davies and Nick Kelly make up the Cardiff electro haze pop group XY&O, who first found success when they began to release demos online. Seeing this success, the group then made the transition from bedroom project to live band by adding live percussion. The group have quickly found their dreamscape sound and have caught the eye of many, and even performed on the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury this year. Their sound is atmospheric with bubbly guitars, vocals and intense bass and beats, making for a good soundtrack to a night out.
Simply quite mad. Quite, quite mad. This hardcore group are intelligent, eccentric, and have a reputation for delivering fantastic live shows adorned with catchy riffs and powerful vocals. With an almost cartoony sound, this group add zest to an often rather dull scene and have won over fans for their dutiful madness. Big loud songs with a comic and colourful twist that would even entertain those who loathe the genre. The punk spirit is alive and well in their live shows.
Having also been featured on Glastonbury’s BBC Introducing stage, huge Cardiff based Afro Cluster look to establish themselves at the front of the UK hip hop scene. Working with front man MC Skundadelic, whose politically driven lyrics, and inspired by the likes of afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, The Roots and Snarky Puppy, the group have successfully blended afro-funk and hip hop to create one of the city’s most exciting sounds. Quite unlike anything else in the Welsh music scene at the moment, and possibly the best ambassadors in Welsh hip hop today. We Don Land is stunning.
CHAIN OF FLOWERS
Post punk with a subdued sound, both loud and beautiful, Chain of Flowers have started to build up a fanbase with their shoegazey, almost instrumental sound. The six-piece group have worked for years to hone their sound and fuse atmospheric soundscapes with harder guitars. The result is interesting, and the group seem to have found a rather distinctive sound that would appeal to fans of groups like the Horrors and Toy. Their sound is almost like a contradiction; both soothing and energetic, it’s something you could easily listen to both on a chilled out evening or in the gym. Quite a feat.
THE MOON BIRDS
Crowned winners of the Big Gig 2016, Merthyr’s finest funk and soul export the Moon Birds have understandably caught the eyes of many recently. The five-piece create what they call ‘drunk funk’, a fusion of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder Soul, Earth Wind & Fire funk, Snarky Puppy experimentality and funk minimalists Vulfpeck. The group’s focus on live music as opposed to recording is arguably one of the factors for them having won the Big Gig, and they pride themselves on their raw energy. With an ever growing fan base and a sound that’s ever coming into focus, the group are one of the most promising young talents from South Wales.
With a rather novel idea behind them, Burum draw inspiration from traditional Welsh music, but adapt it for a modern jazz sextet. The group recently released Llef, and have previously impressed jazz aficionados at the Brecon Jazz Festival, with Tomos Williams on trumpet, Daniel Williams on tenor sax, Ceri Rhys Matthews on Welsh pipes, Dave Jones on piano, Chris O Connor on bass and Mark O Connor on drums. There’s a certain melancholy to their sound, and after learning about their inspirations, you can definitely hear the Welsh sound in their jazz improvisations. Very relaxing.
Every so often, kind of like a chosen one, a Welsh folk act comes along who draws in audiences from outside Wales, and Plu look like they may just do that. This sibling trio Welsh language act play folk music with hints of country and Americana, covering traditional songs and also playing their own original material. Elan, Marged and Gwilyn Rhys, from Snowdonia, sing in absolutely perfect harmony that is almost the very stereotype of Welsh music to many. It’s stunning, and the passion and melancholy easily translates even for non-Welsh speakers.
SLOWLY ROLLING CAMERA
Inspired by the likes of Cinematic Orchestra, Portishead and Radiohead, Slowly Rolling Camera meld trip hop, jazz, soul and electronic music. Having played at jazz festivals around the world, the group’s soundscape is charming audiences with their jazzy experimental sound. Lyricist and vocalist Dionne Bennett’s voice is absolutely remarkable and works perfectly with the rest of the outfit, with impressive time signatures and drumming from Elliott Bennett, keyboardist Dave Stapleton, and sound design artist Deri Roberts. Unlike some similar outfits, they aren’t afraid of progression and breaking through into almost full soul crescendos. Genius.
In a similar vein to groups like the Coral, Tibet look back with a sense of near nostalgia to create a sound for fans of groups like Cage The Elephant. The four-piece have captured the attention of critics and fans alike and seem to have been going from strength to strength in the past couple of years. Clearly influenced by bands like the Kinks, their sound has also been clearly influenced by Brit Pop, and at times has an almost Libertines wildness to it. An attempt in reviving the sounds of the 60s that may well be going places, but is ultimately fun pumped up pop.