RECENT WELSH MUSIC YOU MAY HAVE MISSED | REVIEW
Beginning this column, and thereby 2021, with an album which isn’t entirely recent at all, thus priming you for a year of lies and disappointment. Don’t go thinking this reflects badly on Dunkie, though! Dunkie, a fella from Mountain Ash named Anthony Price, first released the music on debut album Working To Design in 2018 as singles, started distributing the finished article in lateish 2019, finally released it last summer and, two months ago, produced a second edition in a fancy box with art prints from Merthyr painter Gustavius Payne among other things. Working… is 74 minutes long, a throwback to the “here’s a CD, fill it up” mentality of the 90s, and Price plus a cast of some two dozen musicians craft lavish guitar pop that nods to psych, soul and electronica – anyone who’s a fan of all of the Boo Radleys, Flaming Lips and Spiritualized would like this, I reckon.
Twentysomething years ago Euros Childs, or rather his band Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, was somewhat in the sphere of those groups – a tier of popularity down, maybe – but these days self-releases most of his music, disobliged to care about commercial appeal but melodic and charming still. Kitty Dear, released just before Christmas, features two lengthy tracks of analogue synth burbling, over which Childs reflects on what sound like long-lost family memories. Very much one that draws you in without you realising.
Cian Owen [below], aged 19 and from Anglesey, is much newer on the scene, with Doppelgänger his debut release as Isophex via the Cae Gwyn label. It’s just over three minutes of wistful, agreeable electronica, offering a loosely Boards Of Canada vibe in its synth tones and some nice drum patterns that sound ‘tribal’ but not in a naff way.
A new label, Parked Up Safe, writes to announce its existence and first two signings, both appearing to be from Machynlleth. One, Jaheed aka Jaiden Braddock, is an instrumental hip-hop producer; 13 Acres Of Soil is a continuous 20-minute piece, billed as a mixtape and having a good (bad) time with gloomy, witch house-y beats’n’drones, even displaying the chutzpah to sample the In Heaven song from Eraserhead. Certainly at the stylistic fringe of hip-hop, but highly intriguing.
“Welsh Artist Featured on ITV Love Island,” barked the subject header of Kima Otung’s correspondence to Buzz. That don’t impress me much – but her latest song, Welcome Home, contains topical depth nevertheless, a meditation inspired by homelessness and, by extension, Otung’s own experience of severe poverty as a young child in Pontypridd. The song itself is a piano-driven pop-soul ballad with teases of swelling strings and some impressive melismatic vocals towards the end.
I’m more than curious about the emergence of Knomad Spock [top] in 2021, although he’s not a brand new artist, having rapped as Nomad since the 2000s. Recently, the Cardiff-based artist has turned towards jazzy folk-rock kinda stuff, with Egypt the second track released in this guise and preceding an album in spring. Guess it’s on a Nick Drake or John Martyn tip, though with modern production touches (and especially sick drums).
Lastigband continues the deluge of solo projects, being the pseudonym of Conwy’s Gethin Davies, ex of Sen Segur who I recall being around without being able to describe their music. This – four-song EP Diffyg – on the other hand is a sweet treat of evasive homemade synthpop with dub FX, which reminds me of Peaking Lights a bit. Three Welsh-language numbers are followed by the Anglophone Get On My Drums, whose slo-mo hip-hop beat and idle vocal come off like some early 00s Twisted Nerve label release.
The latest album by Nathan Hall & The Sinister Locals arrived on CD, as correspondence has tended to in the near-two decades Hall has been sending Buzz music. Also known as frontman of Soft Hearted Scientists, and solo here despite the band implied by the name, On The Blink packs 22 songs into just over an hour, and reaffirms that Hall has the art of fuzzy-edged prog-psych-pop whimsy down to a perfect art at this point. There’s actually an even more recent Sinister Locals release, three-song EP New Eyes, available at the Bandcamp link above.
Finally, an actual band, guitar bass drums vox and all that: it’s The Rotanas, who are from Cardiff and part of a youthful musical wave upholding lairy Britpop tradition, much like the original lairy Britpoppers lionized music from 25 years or so beforehand. Spinner, out this Friday (the above link is from a Janice Long sesh), has twinkly guitars, a crashing chorus and gravelly vocals – ‘gritpop’, they call it, for better or worse – and strikes me as resembling Stereophonics more than the bands from a few years before them.
Two songs of new product by Silent Forum arrives about a year after the Cardiff band’s debut album Everything Solved At Once. Well, not new new, to be picky – How I Faked The Moon Landing featured on that album, and has been remixed here by Charlie Francis, its original producer. It accentuates the early 80s disco-punk feel with near-comically brash synthesisers, parts of which sound like the theme to a local radio quiz segment, and cut-up electro/hip-hop motifs. Don’t Overcook It, an outtake from Everything…, reverts to the band’s more familiar goth-pop flourishes with spoke-sung vocals.
From Carmarthenshire, the debut single by Tacsidermi [above] – a duo of Gwenllian Anthony from Adwaith, Matthew Kilgariff from The Tates who I think I was uncomplimentary about some time ago, and Davey Newington of Boy Azooga. He’s actually the guest drummer, hence them not being a trio, but ably contributes to the Libertino Records-released Gwir, which sports a baggy lope of a beat and whirring synth spookery. Broadcast, or Cardiff’s Gulp, are handy reference points to a promising introductory number.
The second Parked Up Safe release is by Tai Haf Heb Drigolyn, who might be a band or solo project – Izak Zjalic seems to be the founder member in either case. Heneb Ddiog, released on Fri 29 Jan, is an 11-minute multi-part piece built from post-rocky chords, sampled/manipulated interview footage (some with what I assume is the Free Wales Army) and a spoken word section. Inescapable Godspeed You Black Emperor vibes on show here, but THHD seems to ‘get’ them more than most acts who try their intensity on for size. Why not try his Welsh language cover of Frankie Teardrop by Suicide while you wait?
Cyn Ddued Â Ffwc by Ufferndaith from Merthyr Tydfil was released on Christmas Day, implying a distinct lack of respect for that particular religious holiday. Well, that’s because they’re a black metal band – industrial black metal, to be precise, which manifests itself in six songs of digital drums, fizzy tremolo guitar, beastly vocals and a prevailing trashy punk vibe, notwithstanding the odd soundscapey turn like Yr Aber (Ddiwedd Haf). No idea who/what Ufferndaith is/are, but colour me interested.
What a Vela Incident is, no-one knows (or is telling me), but it shares its name with a band from Port Talbot who profess to feature “the founding members of Ectoplasm (1997) and Shoreline (1999)”. Whether or not you were a mad fan of Ectoplasm or Shoreline, this new two-song Vela Incident single offers churchy indie shoegaze with For All Lost Souls, followed by highly glum close-miced bedsit folk titled The Switch.
Finally, a huge compilation of electronica released in aid of Hunger Relief International. Yfory (E.L.M Collective) is by no means all Welsh, but some of it is, as is one of its main compilers – David Galea, aka Cardiff acid producer Umbromaniii, who provided a sample pack to contributors from which to work. The result: lots of bods commonly found on Bandcamp or limited-run cassettes, touting IDM, braindance, ambient, electro, soothing, headstabbing, swishly polished, excitingly basement-y, a hell of a lot to take in in one sitting (I speak from experience) but a fine example of a fine community doing fine work.
words NOEL GARDNER