Happy September to you! Hopefully. Bereftness has been a facet of human life in the last six months, as you probably appreciate, but one thing I’ve been bereft of is the opportunity to cover strange and/or unheralded music from Wales in the pages of Buzz magazine. Currently, those are exclusively web pages, as people said in 1998 or so, but one can only work with what a vengeful god provides, and so here is a (relatively) quickfire rattle through some 15 cool’n’curious Welsh releases from ‘the lockdown era’.
Blaktrix is a UK hip-hop MC who emerged in the Cardiff scene of the mid-00s, kicked around until the early 10s, vanished for the best of a decade and is back, via Carmarthenshire label Winger, with the Dumb EP. €5 Euro Shades is the pick of this return, which features four original cuts and three remixes/alt versions by Cardiff DJs Jaffa and Moneyshot, plus Winger Records group Culture Vultures.
From Monmouth – catch them doing this kinda thing at the town’s jazz-loving jarhouse The Queens Head in better times – Coltrane Dedication use the music and philosophy of John Coltrane as a torchlight for their own improvisation. They’ve recently released At The Museum, a live set recorded in Ceredigion Museum last year, where the quintet interpret five pieces from the canon of the man heads call ‘Trane’ plus Basilica, a rippling piano-led original.
My Pet Flamingo is a Cardiff-based record label specialising in the arch and postmodern subgenre of vaporwave, and their latest release is the debut LP by Donor Lens, a duo who claim to reside between London and Barry. Midnight Store is, near-inexplicably, a concept album based on an actual off-license of the same name, which has vexed me in the past by not actually staying open until midnight. It embraces retromodern 80s synth-based smoothness with a fervour but suffuses that vibe with added ambient haze.
Merthyr’s number one electronic r’n’b vocalist (I am fairly sure), Ëadyth [top], released a new song in early August: Grow or Tyfu, depending if you choose the English or Welsh language version. Either way you get a wistful, late-night vocal performance (she really does have a good voice), deceptively tricksy beats and lush sweeping melodies. Really think Ëadyth could get popular given the right breaks.
Remember electronic producer Ifan Dafydd from the heady days of early 2010s ‘post-dubstep’ type stuff? He’s been pretty quiet in the last few years, but recently dropped a collaborative track with Thallo, aka folk-rock type Elin Edwards. Aderyn Llwyd is a Welsh language cover of a Gallagher & Lyle song, apparently, and is very smooth chillout biz.
Jaxson Payne, based in Cardiff in the last few years having created various wild electronic music in Cornwall and London beforehand, has been putting a bunch of his old music – much of it unreleased – online during spring/summer 2020. The music on K-Radio Mix, a cassette under his Derehctub name, dates from 2005 and offers 32 continuous minutes of restless, high-energy IDM replete with glitches, choppy edits and a messed-up electro vibe.
Josh Dickins of Cardiff indiepoppers Rosehip Teahouse says that Jiujuk, or Jake Bright, “lives out in the Welsh wilderness”. There he has created Dream Lizard, seven tracks of meditative and affecting ambient house that generally trundles along with a scuffed early-90s sheen but goes somewhere decidedly creepier with penultimate number Goblin. I want to hear more!
It’s close on 20 years since John Mouse [above] started releasing music, and the Valleys-based outsider-indie fella’s latest album The Goat (on his Keep Me In Your Heart label, with a vinyl version out sometime soon) retains his taste for rickety DIY pop and humorous subject matter. Due to restrictions on travel and assembly the music here – uptempo lo-fi synthpop you might have encountered in the 80s, or on a Magnetic Fields album – was created by a cohort remotely, in Lincolnshire no less, with John adding his spoken-ish vocals later.
Dan Newman, lead vocalist of No Hit Radio, also started releasing music of a scrappy and eccentric nature in early 00s south Wales, under the name Steveless. This latest venture, whose debut EP Wah Wah Wah Wah was self-released in the spring, isn’t quite as much of a chaotic blues-punk racket as Steveless, but it has a fair crack at it. Four songs, three under 90 seconds long, from this trio skate across frozen lakes of noisy garage rock, C86 type indie and wonky postpunk. Another fine introduction.
Rhodri Davies, a founder member of Hen Ogledd with Richard Dawson, has been stationed in Swansea for a while now, managing to make things (cool gigs and that) happen there while carrying on a brisk workrate as perhaps the UK’s most esteemed avant-garde harp player. Unless you want to debate that point! His latest solo album – Telyn Rawn, on his own Amgen label – is named after a specific type of Welsh harp which became obsolete centuries ago, but which Davies had a new model of built and which made all the sounds on this album. The 18, generally fairly short, pieces range from elegant waves of bowed melody to more frantic and abrasive bouts of plucking that one might think akin to West African kora music, if their ears move in those circles.
One minute of some old folk ditty I don’t recognise, by way of an intro, is a red herring for about 20 minutes of punishing all-out noise music by Jo Sheehy aka Slow Murder. Death To Fascism, Freedom To The People is their third cassette under this name, and like Slow Murder’s second one is released by neato noise label Outsider Art. Distorted-to-abstraction vocals crash headlong into waves of enervating static and tones that blow both high and low, like the wind. This’ll jolt you out of your stupor, fairly warned be thee!
Burbly electronic psych from Pembrokeshire is what Spurious Transients offers, indeed appears to have done in some form since the late 1980s. Sometimes a band, with the only current (and only ever-present) member being Gavin Lloyd Wilson, new self-released CD The Internal Inferno Of The Nocturnal Mock Turtle splices languid Krautrock guitars, loping beats and dialogue lifted from what seem to be old educational recordings of some type. Seems to have links to fellow west Wales trippers Sendelica and cult English indie label Fruits De Mer, and if those names whet your whistle you might dig this.
Progress Is A Process, the first EP by Cardiff hip-hop MC (and founder member of the Ladies Of Rage collective) Unity, cropped up in June via the Later label. Lead track Dusty Jewels talks about displaced communities and “the queens of Cardiff town” over a classic fingerclicky jazz sample; Daisies is more downbeat both music and lyrics-wise and Hench’s delivery is more like poetry than rap, set to a fragile acoustic loop.
Don’t actually know who Via Fantastica are, but they claim to be a Cardiff duo and have a Twitter account that posts rad synthpop/disco/Italo etc deep cuts once a week. That element of their taste is reflected in their latest two-song digital single, Acrid and Hi-Life Lowlights. The first track pairs a stern if reserved vocal with a chuntering machine-driven backing somewhere between early 80s minimal synth and mid-80s electro; the second is a more expansive array of semi-ambient keyboards and proto-techno rhythms.
Finally, in the Various Artists slot that always risks bringing up the rear, is a compilation of David Bowie covers put together by Jon Mlynarski and titled Corona Stardust. It follows up not one but two collections of Velvet Underground covers, titled The Corona Underground – all of this having been recorded post-lockdown, as you may have guessed, and primarily though not exclusively featuring folks from the Welsh indie, pop and psych scene(s). It’s all free to download from Bandcamp, although any payment made will go to good causes (Velvets – Race Council Cymru and Tarian Cymru; Bowie – Save Our Venues). Martin Carr, DD Darillo from Boy Azooga, Panic Shack and Clwb Fuzz are among the local lions pitching in to appropriate ‘the Dame’.
words NOEL GARDNER