Tuesday 4 August 2015

Gwenno - Y Dydd Olaf

Article by KevW

Despite knowing the odd word of Welsh, it's still essentially a foreign language to me (as is, despite living in this particular Celtic outpost, Cornish, another language that Gwenno recorded in prior to joining The Pipettes). So when handed an album of music sung entirely in a tongue you don't understand, the voice pretty much acts as another instrument. That's no slight, because on tracks such as 'Calon Peiriant' the vocals simply soar, taking you blissfully into the stratosphere with them. It's cases like this whereby it can perhaps even be considered a good thing that the words are (unless you're a Welsh speaker) basically meaningless, because the focus is firmly on the song. The gorgeous 'Sisial Y Môr' which follows is another example of this.

Getting bogged down with talk of language barriers and so on almost does 'Y Dydd Olaf' a disservice though, because there's some stunning writing here, not to mention the production (and how many bands from far off lands have we covered on the site before?). The wavering keys that kick-off 'Chwyldro' lead into what could be considered the defining sound of this record. Having been an electronic musician and also part of a retro indiepop group, making the move to kraut-pop seems like a sensible next step, and it's one that Gwenno makes with ease. You can throw in as many references to Stereolab or Broadcast as you like, and it's true that these songs do come from a similar sonic realm, but the main thing is that they're just as good, as well as being incredibly consistent in that quality.

Now that it's had the extra time to get under your skin, single 'Patriarchaeth' has become a minor classic of its genre and gathers together much of what's great about 'Y Dydd Olaf'. Elsewhere it's worth giving a nod of approval to the short instrumental 'Dawns Y Blaned Dirion' which shows a different kind of experimental side, as does the longer, stranger 'Stwff' which could be a collection of found sounds strapped to the side of something more conventional; the slicker, '80s influenced 'Golau Arall' has a wonderful chorus and should be filed as a potential single (you could almost call it chillwave) and the title-track also fits the potential single category, being filled with experimental dreampop - and that voice takes you somewhere else again. Perhaps if you were looking for the most likely song to garner widespread attention and radio play, then you'd find it in 'Fratolish Hiang Perpeshki' which is probably the most uptempo of the lot and harks back to those electro-pop days. By the time you get to the playful 'Amser', where vintage electro gets ambient but never dull, you're totally convinced after just one listen. So the best plan is to just hit the repeat button and float away again.

Gwenno's website

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