Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, Sat 24 Mar
Los Blancos might fly the Welsh language flag and thus qualify to play Cardiff’s Tafwyl festival this summer, but sonically they draw inspiration from across the Atlantic rather than from the rich musical traditions, past and present, of their own country. No complaints round these parts, mind – how could there be for a band that replicate the wonky charm and slacker sound synonymous with Pavement (particularly on Datgysylltu), with the odd thrash-pop nugget (Iesu Grist) lobbed in for good measure? Neither a snapped string nor the flu-enforced absence of regular bassist Osian can prevent Los Blancos from making a significant impression. With label backing from Libertino and Radio 1 airplay courtesy of Huw Stephens already under their belt, they are incontrovertible evidence of the burgeoning scene in Carmarthen – and, as such, a timely reminder of the folly of focusing myopically on Cardiff, Swansea and Newport.
Wylderness, meanwhile, had me at hello – well, the opening few notes of 72 & Summer, at least. The single’s superfuzzy gorgeousness recalls Ride, DIIV and Lotus Plaza and instantly justified their inclusion on a 6 Music playlist assembled by Swn’s John Rostron entitled “10 Cardiff artists you need to know right now”. I was totally and utterly smitten. Tonight’s show – something of a busman’s holiday for guitarist/synth player Oli, who is usually behind the mixing desk here at Clwb rather than in front of it – marks the launch of the band’s self-titled debut album, which both looks and sounds great. The evening is all set up to be a resounding triumph – and yet sadly it’s not, really.
Maybe it’s my ears, on their third gig in the space of three nights, but the principal problem is that the songs just sound too thin. Specifically, the reverbed-to-hell guitar – so well captured by Rory Attwell in the studio – is consistently too low in the mix. I want to bathe in it, luxuriate in it, drown in its syrupy goodness – not feel, at times, as though I’m lying in a puddle. An issue merely for the soundman, perhaps – but, regardless of that, the band never seem to get fully into the zone, set-closer Sunographer coming closest to really showing the exhilarating heights they can scale.
A slight disappointment on the night, then – but rest assured, when they do get it right it’ll be well worth witnessing.
words BEN WOOLHEAD