Beginning with two servings of folk music done the authentic way, October’s pick of new music you may have missed in Wales includes pop, dance, indie, psychedelia and jazz, all available to buy or stream somewhere.
CERI RHYS MATTHEWS
Two folk acts, Ceri Rhys Matthews and Rowan Coupland & Eirini Fountedaki, share a cassette on the Betwixt & Between label, founded by Jacken Elswyth in part as a showcase for her own music (this, the ninth B&B release, is the first Elswyth doesn’t feature on). Coupland and Fountedaki, who supply five songs of erudite lyricism backed by violin and rippling harp, live in mainland Europe and have no Welsh connections – unlike Matthews, who lives in the Swansea region and has been a visible component of the domestic folk scene for over 30 years. Accordingly, his four instrumental pieces for solo wooden flute are lovely and evocative to me, a sound you might dream of stumbling on someone playing behind a very remote waterfall.
Craven are a new name to me, with Baby Vs Crow the Cardiff-based three-piece’s first shared recordings, though the project seems to date back two years or so. They are a folk group whose renditions of various traditional songs – the proverbial mix of ballads and broadsides – are augmented by stringed instruments and the drone of harmonium and concertina, lending a heady, hazy feel. They also bring their queer identities to bear on their chosen material, something there’s been an interesting and welcome uptick of among younger folkies of late (Shovel Dance Collective come to mind). These six songs include a Welsh-language number, Ble’r Wyt Ti’n Myned, Irish rebel song Join The British Army and the Dorset-originated The Sheepstealer, also known as The Brisk Lad.
It’s probably overthinking on my part, but there seems to be something about living on the Wales-England border – popping over to Powys like a stroll to the postbox – that facilitates a fascinatingly singular and eerie type of music. So as well as Ellis Green’s music as Sunken Grove and his Verdant Wisdom label, which I’ve reviewed a few times, one county up in Shropshire we find Eric Loveland Heath and his similarly micro-edition label Plenty Wenlock. Heath has made music since the late 00s, with latest release Companions in fact some earlier work unissued until now: its six pieces are low fidelity and vocal-less, with elements of collage and found percussion amidst quavering synth figures and ambient guitar sections which compare loosely to Hood or Dif Juz.
Lewys Wyn, one third of Main Man, sends this project’s debut single Is Loving Me Really That Hard along with a short press sheet talking of “emotion that only brothers and sisters could express”. Not totally sure how this works when the song is evidently referencing some sort of romantic situation, but I’m really taken with it: a very polished synthy folk-rock song with, it feels reasonable to speculate, a sizeable Fleetwood Mac influence and a cheeky Spanish vibe on the guitar solo at the end. In fact I could imagine this being respun into some poolside Balearic comedown smash. As for the sibling thing, Lewys – producer and main guy behind Sywel Nyw – is joined by brother Griff Wyn, also of Yr Ods, and vocalist Casi, who apparently featured on a Christmas charity single with Ozzy Osbourne last year.
Cardiff band Muriel is in fact a person, or at least began life as one, though not a person named Muriel. Zak Thomas started recording these songs lo-fi indie-folk style in his tattoo shop (presumably not while working) and indeed did for this self-titled debut album, but now with a band and some people au fait with pro studios on co-production/mastering duties. Ultimately, then, Muriel (Venn) is a recording that emphasises its attributes, with briskly shuffling drums and the squeak of nylon guitar strings overlaid by Thomas’ weary, soft-edged vocals. Country, post-rock and Midwest emo at its most placid can all be heard on these nine songs, released on very limited vinyl should you end up digging it.
PART TIME SIGNALS
Founded by Jacob Church, Part Time Signals have sprung from Sock, a Cardiffian slacker-rock outfit whose records have emerged through the Bubblewrap label – as has this, debut PTS LP Another Day In Paradise. A wilfully lackadaisical type of psychedelic indie that, thanks in no small part to its upfront keyboard sections, we might call “chooglin’” if we were referring to some 1974 moustache-rock thing. These 10 songs are languid and cottonwool-fuzzy at their edges, with pedal steel and alt-countrified harmony prevalent; I’m struck by how much Another Day… sounds like an era I’m certain Church and co are too young to recall, namely the late-90s UK one encompassing (especially) The Beta Band, Scott 4 and Gomez.
This, a two-song digital release on Libertino Records, is the first release by Siula, who are based in Cardiff. For producer Llion Robertson, this is a break for the pop borders, at least compared to his established solo alias Cotton Wolf – although the glassy trance synths on Ischia aren’t miles from the sort of electronica he deals in under that name. Golau Gwir is more downtempo, with a bassy chassis and softer pop-house keys, and finds Siula vocalist Iqra Malik singing in Welsh (Ischia is in English). Malik also performs solo, as Artshawty – not had the pleasure of that one, as yet, but her voice both suits and elevates Robertson’s music here.
STEREO MINUS ONE
Dan Haines-Cohen has released music as Stereo Minus One for over 20 years, though sometimes infrequently: Everything Is So Beautiful, I Need To Lie Down however arrives a year and a bit after his last album, as usual on his own label Machine, and according to the Cardiff-originated electronic producer this reflects a revival in his zeal for making music. Equally likely to deliver wonky techno, abrasive sound art or murky computer ambience, these nine tracks are lower-key in their arrangements – rarely ear-scouring but ultimately uneasy listening, with bouts of spring reverb (or something like it) giving way to digital crackle and ripples of more blissed-out melody. Finding Metal In The Cracks Of The Pavement is a ghostly dub sketch with a good title.
TIDES OF SULFUR
Great to hear from this sludgy, metallic Cardiff band for the first time in a good few years, with their second studio album in a decade active. Apathy Chasm (APF) is a strong example of the power trio principle: Tides Of Sulfur’s sleevenotes describe their songs as “badly performed”, which they aren’t at all, but they keep things pretty much to the basics, notwithstanding a few hints at singer Chris Bull’s occasional dabblings in harsh noise. Previous ToS releases mixed up their dragging, churning tempos with bouts of speed that took them into nigh-on death/doom territory; that’s reprised on Disgruntled, with ladles of nihilistic sludge a la Eyehategod more prevalent and a quick burst of crust punk during Blame Thrower.
The first Cwmwl Tystion suite by Cardiff-based jazz trumpeter Tomos Williams was recorded in 2019, when Williams’ assembled ensemble performed it on tour, and released as an album in early 2021. Cwmwl Tystion II: Riot!, its followup, was performed live in late 2021, with recordings from three sets featuring on this release, again courtesy of the Tŷ Cerdd label. It’s the most ambitious and impressive project yet from Williams, who also plays in Burum and Khamira, and its two highest profile musicians – Soweto Kinch and Orphy Robinson – are each crucial components to seven pieces which collectively reckon with Wales’ knotty racial history, including but not limited to antisemitic and anti-Black riots of 1911 and 1919. Riot! had its final performance at October’s Llais festival, with a third in the series hopefully forthcoming.
Pretty plumb new band from south Wales here: Living In A Dream is the first song Waterpistol have shared with the world, though they’ve been gigging fairly consistently since the spring. Their presentational ‘thing’, it seems, is a simultaneous channeling of the 1960s and 1990s, and when they say the 90s we’re talking the music of the 90s that was channeling the 60s. If you follow. Fuzzy psychedelia and shoegaze are abundant, in any event, with acoustic guitars steeped in reverb and ‘not long woken up’ vocals: Ride and The Verve strike this listener as likely touchstones. (In the interests of disclosure, one-sixth of Waterpistol’s lineup is a Buzz colleague.)
Seen this Valleys three-piece’s name kicking about a bit, often on bills for pub gigs in towns like Pontypool and Abertillery (this is a good thing!), and in fact reviewed an EP by them about three and a half years ago. This time they’re back with a full album, Disgraceland, on the Big Egg label. For whatever reason, I don’t really hear the “industrial metal and post-hardcore elements” my last review mentioned this time: the tempo has been upped, I think, and the drumming style especially keeps The Woodsman in the realms of 90s skatepunk, albeit of the less polished type. Reminds me a bit of Newport’s infamous Cowboy Killers, also, perhaps on account of the ‘man with heavy south Wales accent who has also internalised thousands of American rock singers’ vocals.
words NOEL GARDNER