August isn’t just a month, it’s also an adjective, and I might be moved to use it when describing Simon Proffitt, aka Carnedd Aur. Certainly if I happened to be talking about conceptual, Welsh, underground analogue format music – something this monthly column gives me a chance to do. Proffitt, who ran the Fourier Transform label in Cardiff some time back and now lives in north Wales, has recorded under several names. Based on Beetles, an album-length tape released by German label Superpolar, Carnedd Aur is his outlet for hypnotic techno-ish compositions. All its eight tracks are named after species of beetle, some feeling especially right for this sort of rushing, shimmering electronica (Rusty Click; Dune Chafer); as Proffitt infers in the blurb, this is way more conventionally accessible than his average output, though in fact is an experiment on his personal terms.
Cardiff’s Rhiannon Lowe was interviewed for Buzz earlier this month about her new art exhibition Cekca Het: Trans Panic, and the inspiration behind it. As part of the exhibition, Lowe made Mini and Maxi: two tapes of gnarly electronic music, also under the name Cekca Het. Tracks are titled with a sort of offhand descriptiveness generally associated with first-take demos (Whistler Arpeggio Thing for example), and this carries over to the music too, but in a good way. Uncompromising synthesised spontaneity with few tangible rhythms but bags of cool judders and creepy sounds. Hails!
Here is some ‘recent Welsh music’ from 1979, sue me. It’s by Dyfatty Flats: a late-70s era Swansea band who never released anything at the time but later formed Page 3 and The Living Legends, both mildly infamous for their anarchist prankster punk antics (especially backing vocalist Ian Bone, founder of Class War). These two songs – the naturally pro-arson Holiday Homes and Swansea City hooligan anthem Trouble On The North Bank – are at the melodic end of late 70s UK punk, a bit Nuggets garage and a bit skinny tie powerpop. It’s solid fodder for heads who buy Messthetics and Bored Teenagers compilations, if not punk dabblers, and following its digital unveiling there are loose plans to make this into a 7”.
A less combative mood takes over in the form of Gwynedd folkie Eve Goodman and her new single Wave Upon Wave, which is, it says here, partly preserved in its original demo form but has a full-bodied ambience nevertheless (Goodman credits producer Luke Evans for this). Its lyrics are allegorical things mentioning lighthouses and dry land etc, and it forms part of a sea/water-themed EP, which may include the also-recently-released Siren Song.
Jointly based between south Wales and Bristol, Grand Collapse’s third album Empty Plinths (released by a consortium of five labels) nods to Edward Colston’s mothballed statue in its title and ratchets up the mean tempo and general intensity in its music. The quartet’s music has long made good with parts of 90s-era melodic hardcore, anarcho and crust punk of the more bombastic kind; there’s now a more pronounced metal edge to the guitars, especially, songs including Waves and Without Let Or Hindrance landing on a crossover thrash-ish tip. Vocalist Calvin Sewell remains committed to social commentary of a contemporary, rather than general, kind: National Detective Programme references a recent UK scheme encouraging the populace to, as he puts it, “rat on your neighbours”.
This new single by LEMFRECK – a Newport MC who lives in Cardiff, if I understand right – is a great addition to what’s building into a proper decent local rap scene again. Kings, which includes a feature for London’s INFAMOUSIZAK, has chirpy, energetic grime melodies, singsongy r’n’b parts and brash trap FX. Not at all easy to stuff into a genre and fair play to LEMFRECK for that! Bang up for hearing the album that is apparently on the way.
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I stumbled upon Me Against Misery – Rhondda solo postpunker Matt Rhys Jones – at some point in the last month and liked his moxie, although cannot for the life of me remember where this stumbling-upon happened. (He was interviewed in the Echo nearly two years ago, it seems, but it wasn’t that.) MAM’s latest song, Datguddiad, is a very likeable bit of wiry drama given a coldwave feel thanks to a sputtering drum machine and Jones’ slightly haunted vocals. I don’t know if the main man is in a position to get a band together to play live – this song does have a guest guitarist – but I’d be open to swaying glumly like the Generation Xers at Hullabalooza to this.
If memory serves, I first heard about N’famady Kouyaté when he was booked to play live at a food market. His chosen instrument is the balafon, one of the xylophone family associated with his birth nation of Guinea, and on Aros Y Fi Na (Libertino), his debut EP, he demonstrates notable virtuosity on second track Gadael Y Dref. He’s helped out on that number by Gruff Rhys (backing vox and I think guitar); 9bach’s Lisa Jen features on the title track and drummer Kliph Scurlock, like Kouyaté a migrant muso found in Cardiff, is credited with additional percussion. Whoever is on Afrobeat horns for Balafô Douma, my pick of these four songs, deserves even more props.
Oblong, the debut LP by Obey Cobra, has a sticker on its shrinkwrap (pictorial evidence) with a three-word review by yours truly in, uh, Buzz truly. I wrote it in late 2019, noting that this Cardiff sextet were shortly to self-release this album until one of the UK’s various cool noiserockin’ labels picked it up – and, eventually, Newcastle’s reliably class Box Records did just that. Obey Cobra are one of the region’s best bands of recent years and Oblong (also the name of the very earliest version of the group, trivia fans) is a corker! Motorik-leaning psych-punk meets with gothy atmos, Sabbath riff drag and frothy electronics over nine rangy, wavey songs.
Rhondda musician Rhodri Viney has been releasing sorrowful, story-building folk music as Ratatosk for over a decade, and like the earliest of those releases, Yn Canu can be bought in a dead nice foldy handmade card sleeve. He’d been recording for more than 10 years before that, too, and intriguingly (to me), his fleet-fingered guitar style on these eight songs seems to circle back to the American Primitive-influenced recordings he did early on. It still sounds like the Ratatosk album it is, however, especially Y Cudd’s delicate slowcore, while lyrical conceits include coastal erosion as a metaphor and the tendency of metaphors to be duds.
A new EP by the greatest IDM/hardcore hybrid outfit from Ammanford… ever!, Somatic Responses. Actually it seems that they/he (usually it’s John and Paul Healy, sometimes just John – the latter, in this case) have released scads of digital content in 2021, and why not. Viol Runia is a four-track EP that seems to come under SM’s Welsh Modular Alliance umbrella, and harks back to their punishing 90s hardware sound most readily with the space cadet ‘ardkore of Liov Aunir (all titles are anagrammatic). Reminds me of some of the recent Nkisi stuff as it happens. Elsewhere, explosive glitch and acid eruptions make for uneasy but hugely vibrant listening.
Lewys Wyn, of the band Yr Eira, has reverse-ferreted his name into Sywel Nyw and is releasing one song, with a guest vocalist, every month of 2021. I’m late covering it, in other words, but let’s do the two latest. 10/10 is a droll electropopper that starts off chilled but picks up steam, and has a monologue by Lauren Connelly which I can mostly not understand but which has the sort of insouciant tone that invariably keeps my attention. Y Meddwl Lliwgar Yma features Steffan Dafydd, also of Breichiau Hir, sounding like some sort of wise sage over blissful early-90s sounding pop-house of a type the Welsh language set has always done rather well.
The Tubs live in southern England but feature a vast array of members (four) who once toiled in Cardiff’s erstwhile Joanna Gruesome, so there will always be a welcome in this column for them. Names, co-released by the Prefect and Trouble In Mind labels, is the second Tubs 7”, and a mighty perky 10 minutes or so even while tinges of ennui flicker through. If you liked Joanna Gruesome you ought to like this, although it’s appreciably different: an electric folk aura is conferred, particularly on Illusion, by what is either a mandolin or a guitar tuned to sound like one.
Who is Ya Yonder? Their government name does not appear to currently be online, at least in association with the strange, futuristic micropop they make, and that may be the desired state of affairs. Certain Chances could feasibly bring this Cardiff-based artist some attention, though. Released on Shape, in-house label of the band Islet (Ya Yonder seems to be a pal of theirs), its 14 tracks are often under one minute long but ripe with ideas, and very much favouring the clean gloss of digital production. There’s elements of vaporwave, hyperpop, Oneohtrix-type maximalism and Animal Collective faux-naifness, though not enough for any of those tags to quite fit; vocal samples come mainly from YY’s peers, and in one case the speaking voice of novelist Elif Shafak, whose latest book we reviewed just last week.
Ydubbbb, again claiming Cardiff residency, is again not 100% anonymous but probably happier to do his thing without some dickhead (me) blowing up his spot. A hip-hop producer with at least a decade behind him, although a lot of his older bits seem to have been yanked from the web, his latest release, an EP titled Sand Steps, is right in my wheelhouse. Hazy concoctions of thudding beats, deep bass and African (sounding?) samples, it’s somewhere between ambient dub and super slo-mo instrumental hip-hop: you could probably study to it, as the inexplicable fashion of the day has it, but you might be better off necking a load of codeine and vegging out.
words NOEL GARDNER