Kicking off this roundup of new Welsh music is the debut album proper by Benji Wild, ex of Cardiff’s Astroid Boys and thus visibly active in the (rock-) rap game for a decade this year. It came out in early December, but I didn’t do one of these columns last month and it’s a good’un, so let’s give it a big hand! Skull & Bones is a suitably big statement from Benji Wild, probably overlong at over an hour really but full of clever production touches from aggy grime to eccentric electronics to clompy metal riffs, and lyrics capable of serious reflection but containing plenty of sex/drugs levity. The new album even has Benji reunite with the remaining Astroid Boys on album closer Mobbin, which also features London’s Kojey Radical.
Based between Cardiff and London at the time of writing, the duo’s origins are very much in the first of those locations, with Reid Allen and Emma Thornton having played in hardcore bands together among other ventures. Fifty-Nine Pontprennau, the title of Evodia’s first released song, further cements this impression, and most importantly it’s a dead lush slice of Cocteau Twins/early 90s shoegaze pie where the words are all blurred amidst layers of guitar haze and that’s just what the doctor ordered.
Bookhouse’s second release appeared on Bandcamp just before Christmas, and doesn’t tell you much about the band: there’s four of them, they’re from North Wales, have existed for two or three years but still appear to be very young, and play impressively whacked-out psychedelic rock. Eferwad y Tonnau Gwyn features four tracks, including ones of 14 and 21 minutes in length, and has a nice line in both guitar-centred Krautrock ravers and abstract FX gloop. There’s even a kalimba on there, played by Carys, one of three guitarists in Bookhouse. Mint!
Returning to Cardiff, and to a state of rock where guitars are still big and expansive but in the vein of pricey-anorak Britpop, Columbia’s Glory People presages an album due in early 2022 and gives the overwhelming impression that the band are named after the Oasis album track. Vocalist Craig Lewis even does that Liam Gallagher “shiiiiiine” thing on this song’s chorus. This is actually pretty good for what it is, not least thanks to a guitar part closer in style to Neil (Young) than Noel.
A death metal band from south Wales who feature Charlie Rogers, formerly of Sodomized Cadaver. I don’t know why he left Sodomized Cadaver but it was presumably not due to a sudden acquisition of good taste. Self-released album Mortuary Melodies was recorded with a stand-in drummer, Lyn Jeffs of Ingested, on account of extreme metal drummers being like gold dust in Wales, and is rock-solid meat’n’spuds death metal which closes with a cover of 90s genre faves Pestilence and features some wickedly hooky guitar parts on archly-titled songs such as Intestines In The Mudguards.
A sharp change of tack now with the latest album by Euros Childs, who I am sure would never countenance a deliberate miscarriage or anything other than solemn respect for the womb. Blaming It All On Love, released on Xmas’ cusp via Childs’ own website, is a suite of cover versions of the Welsh indie fave’s faves, all dating from the 1960s and 70s save for a trundle through Duke Ellington’s Don’t Get Much Around Anymore. An extremely pleasant, indeed easy listen built from little more than piano (or occasionally organ) and Childs’ distinctive voice, some names hailed here such as Kevin Ayers and Syd Barrett are among his formative influences in Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, and the likes of Julian Cope and Mott The Hoople are far from curveballs here either.
FRENCH ALPS TIGER
Swansea indie sorts French Alps Tiger released a two-song cassingle in mid-November – they’ve been uploading music for nearly three years but appear disinclined to move up to EPs or albums thus far – and Punch In The Bowl has boisterous riffs and pop smarts in good measure, kinda like Weezer at their most Pixies-influenced I guess. B-side (or bonus track depending on your adherence to analogue formats) Let Me Down is a lo-fi acoustic take on a previously released FAT song.
South Wales punk/alt/emo/whatever types around in the early 00s might remember Panel, who had a nice line in sinewy post-hardcore – think At The Drive-In – and who released a single and mini-album in their seven years active. The quartet quietly reformed a while back and, though yet to release any new material, have just put their final, previously unissued recordings from 2006 on Bandcamp. New Endings / Old Beginnings boasts a heavier sound than the remainder of their short discography, aided no doubt by a contemporary remaster by Todd Campbell but ripe with a bottom-heavy sound that seems to nod to Tool and Taint. A welcome return!
It’s time for another grim, gloamy and gloomy album by alleged Pembrokeshire black metal solo stronghold, Revenant Marquis – except this time out he’s put the genre on ice and released an album of beatless dark ambient. Cyflymiad O’r Holl Arferion (Death Prayer) is around 40 minutes of shivery isolationism, created solely with synth I’d assume – if there are guitars, or anything else, on this, they’ve been treated beyond recognition – and in the same sort of nocturnal headspace as a name like Zoviet France.
As Shreddies, Josh Dickins released his debut tape nearly 12 months ago and dropped its followup, Options, via his own label New Haven. The sound on show hasn’t progressed, exactly, but has shifted somewhat, from a vaguely fourth-worldy and ambient take on 90s house to a more crackly and lo-fi place of murk. The final, and longest, track of the six here, Lifestream Sonnet, is a real gem – industrialised dub techno somewhere between Basic Channel and Sandwell District.
Strictly speaking, Swansea Sound are only 25% Swansian but were named in tribute to a recently mothballed radio station of that name by vocalist Hue Williams, who put the city on the map of knowing indiepop some 35 years ago when he formed The Pooh Sticks. Demonstrating that he’s still a hog for self-referentiality, debut Swansea Sound album Live At The Rum Puncheon (not a live recording) includes a song titled The Pooh Sticks: “You can go and see them / In Swansea Museum.” It’s joined by sharp-edged janglers like Corporate Indie Band and I Sold My Soul On Ebay, with Williams having enlisted two members of 80s/90s peers Heavenly (Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey) plus drummer Ian Button, who was Death In Vegas’ drummer for a long period but whose heart seems to be in homelier fare like this. Live At… is released by no less than five labels in various formats and territories, including Swansea’s own Lavender Sweep.
Finally, for January’s picks of new music, a split Bandcamp album between a Swede trading as Iconic Black Suit and Umbromaniii, a Cardiff producer who turns out class ravey analogue acid tracks. (I have a USB stick of his productions he gave me a few years ago sitting on the fuse box above my computer.) The two producers have a fair bit of textural similarity, with Joel Andersson aka IBS’ five tracks touching on trance and booty-friendly electro. The subsequent quintet by David Galea – Umbromaniii – has the same Plaid/Rephlex Records inflexions as his previously released music, but with what sounds like a wider range of synths and a tenor somewhere between cartoonishness and melancholy, which I mean as a good thing. Grudging respect too for the ‘corner shop birthday card’ aesthetic of the album art.
words NOEL GARDNER
Advertise with us.
We have a range of options across print and digital.