Blog posts by year and month July 2010

Posts (130)

  1. I've been very impressed with the way fellow Welsh music blogger, Bethan Elfyn, manages to go to sprawling festivals like Sonar and Latitude and blog about them succinctly. These are some of the most dazzling music festivals on earth. Bethan rarely wastes a syllable. I - however - stumble across a half decent busker on a side-street and my keyboard goes into a cold sweat. I'll do my best to rip through my experience at yesterday's Gwyl Gardd Goll festival with minimal verbal casualties, I promise. Gwyl Gardd Goll - the Secret Garden Festival for those not blessed with a Celtic tongue - is a day-long festival that celebrates music forged from hiraeth-filled Cambrian hearts. Last year's event was proclaimed BBC Radio Cymru and C2's Best Festival In Wales but that hasn't stopped Gwyl Gardd Goll from relocating to the beautiful and historic Faenol Estate in Felinhelli. Last time I was here was for the Big Weekend when much of the awesome splendour of the setting was obscured by huge stages and a massive crowd. Yesterday, little gatherings of welly-booted, fresh-faced, local folk relaxed under wire wool skies. If you live in North West Wales, you soon get used to the rain but Gwynedd's grey skies mean that the grass and the trees here are greener than almost anywhere else in the world. It's a superannuated verdancy, greener than goalkeeping emerald frogs on a bed of spinach served up by Scritti Politti at an environmental fair. There goes the promise. Sorry. I arrive a couple of hours after the festival has started because of nocturnal DJ duties. I've already managed to miss two of the artists I was most eager to see: Crash Disco and Haku Tokinawa, which is a great shame because their respective explorations of electronic possibilities must have brought added dimensions to a day otherwise dominated by more traditional line-ups. I'm here to DJ - at my own request, I don't do nearly enough this kind of thing - in between bands with the indefatigably enthusiastic and sonically bristling DJ Fuzzyfelt. As I slip-stumble into the hollow containing the main stage, I can hear We Are Animal polluting this hippy dream with sleazy riffs and great gurning melodies. They sound ace. Girls in wellies and short shorts dance off early afternoon alcoholic exuberance. I avert my eyes. I do. Fuzzyfelt and I are right behind the stage, under the slope of the canvas, necks bent downwards. We play music made by minds thinking 'yn Gymraeg' from Y Niwl, Ffa Coffi Pawb, Texas Radio Band, Jakokoyak, Lembo, wUw, Llan Clan, Tystion... could be here for a while. It's fun. Dilwyn, the organiser, pops his head into the tent. He looks unflustered. The rain's holding off, there is a fair amount of people in the field, it's all relaxed and good natured. It's only afterwards that I discover that the financial weight of staging this festival falls squarely on Dilwyn and the sponsor's shoulders. There are no grants supporting the artists and the stages, as typically happens for other events subsidised as much for their linguistic content as their musical riches. I see the need for, and fully support, any moves to promote the Welsh language. Sometimes, however, the cash cow makes events predictable and complacent. Gwyl Gardd Goll is a much braver affair. Dilwyn says it's important to him that the festival survives on its own merits. It's an excellent attitude. I feel ashamed for not having done more to help promote the event. Its importance is dawning slowly in my ignorant mind. Mental Post It affixed to flabby cerebrum: 'DO WHATEVER YOU CAN FOR GWYL GARDD GOLL 2011'. Guilt is a great motivator. I've been in the car for a couple of hours and I'm desperate for the toilet. The portaloo providers must think we're in France, or something. There is a strange, open air, cylindrical object that is supposed to be the gentlemans' urinal. It appears to have holes in it through which you're supposed to... never mind. Too much information. It offends my British sense of decorum. Maybe if I'd had as much beer as those foolhardy enough to use it. Whilst seeking something more private, I stumble across the Y Nyth stage. It's set in a beautiful barn near the entrance. Y Nyth was, I believe, an esoteric night of much musical loveliness founded in Cardiff by sound hounds and aesthetically-able designers. I negotiate my way past the smokers stood in the doorway and see Gareth Bonello on stage. My god, that man can play guitar. Gareth Bonello: We have a surfeit of folkish fingerpickers in Wales. People whose religion is DADGAD, founded at the altars of Jansch and Renbourn. Gareth brings a great, natural flow to his songwriting. I only have time for a couple of songs, but his sweet voice and beautiful songs float me and my relieved bladder all the way back to the main stage. Where there is a crowd of folk really giving it some welly in their wellies. Derwyddon Dr Gonzo are Wales' most popular festival band. Wherever they play, their enthusiastic amalgamation of ska, funk and soundtracks guarantees big smiles and half an hour of stomping with lager splashing out the top of plastic glasses. They're beyond criticism. To do so would be like inviting the effete, self-satisfied panel on Great British Menu to critique fish 'n' chips followed by jelly 'n' ice cream. Derwyddon Dr Gonzo: There is a reason this stuff is popular. Rushing around the crowd and telling them they should be listening to Klaus Kinski instead would be missing the point by whole light years. And even I'm not that joyless. During Fuzzy and my next bout of DJ'ing, Gruff Crash Disco appears backstage. Have you heard Crash Disco? You must. His electronic music - well, dance music - manages to fascinate as well as move feet. I play his track GTFO as he makes his way back towards the Y Nyth area. He doesn't start dancing to his own music. He's probably the only one who didn't feel compelled to. Mr Huw makes mordant, black fairytales into songs you'd unwittingly sing to soothe small children. He's easily the most subversive artist on today's bill. He can't help himself. Everything We Do has a most questionable chorus for singing out to a field filled with families enjoying a Sunday afternoon out. Its unquotable passages explain why some red-faced parents are seen ushering their children away from the strange band with its fug of cultish weirdness. Expose a five year old to this and they will never be the same again. Hr Huw: There's a tension and frustration throughout Mr Huw's set. He's not a crowd pleaser and he's following two of the area's most popular live music attractions. But the frustration, the unselfconscious oddness, the playground melodies and the exasperation all combine to make something unsettling and memorable. Something for readers of Bret Easton Ellis. I desert DJ Fuzzyfelt for another wander and hear Yucatan stretching an aurora of beautiful heartache under the eaves of Y Nyth. I don't get in to see them. I'm outside debating how to get music sung in Welsh on BBC Radio Wales with eminent music people. Still, Yucatan (the organiser, Dilwyn's band) manage to shut our mouths - even if only for moments - with their intimate grandiosity. I remember Fuzzyfelt and skulk back to the main stage. I've been playing Yr Ods for quite a few years on my show. Which, when you finally meet them in the flesh (and finely-chosen headwear), elicits shock because they must have been foetuses back then. They've earned the patronage of Huw Stephens and the interest of a hiccuping music industry for good reason. There's an irrepressible pop imagination luminously apparent in their finest moments. Hooks that would land cetaceans. I had to look that up. Yr Ods: It's only as I write this that I've realised quite how many times I deserted my DJ compadre during the course of the day. He must think I'm a right shirker. Within minutes of the start of our post-Yr Ods DJ set, I'm off again. I think the white lie I used this time was something pertaining to food. In reality, I end up stood next to Ashley Cooke (Pulco, formerly Derrero) witnessing the most magical and enervating part of the day for me. Richard James is on stage performing gemlike wonders from his two post-Gorkys Zygotic Mynci solo albums. My vocabulary is all show, really. It's sequins and zircon instead of gold and diamonds. I don't have the words to tell you how effortless, moving and truly special Richard and his excellent band sounded. Richard James: Great musicians hot-wire us to heaven. For those all too brief moments they're there, sharing their gift, we're transcended. I'm moved close to rapture. The religious language mightn't seem appropriate describing a man as humble as Richard James, but actually it's fitting, I don't believe in anything beyond atoms and biology until I hear something as moving as this. Then I wonder. And I'm still wondering now. Better live than on his excellent albums. How often can you say that? Race Horses have treated us to one of the finest albums of 2010 (Goodbye Falkenburg). The last time I saw them they - also - were even better than the excellence of that album. This time, as a fine drizzle begins to thin the crowd, they're not as good, but they're still a potent fizz of killer melodies and errant strangeness. Race Horses: Somewhere in the band's collective minds, the easy simplicity of the early 60's got compacted into the trippy out-there-ness of the true mavericks who brought bad trips to the Summer of Love. So, we get pop - but rather like the first time you taste dandelion and burdock - it's pop, but not as you know it. Seasoned watchers of Radio Luxembourg [their previous name) and Race Horses will know they like to wig out on festival stages. Previous high profile sets at Welsh festivals have dumfounded the audience with techno(ish) meltdowns. Bloody good for them, I say. This evening's set doesn't end as spectacularly. There's a slight tiredness to proceedings. A long few months of gigs has - perhaps - dulled their flame a little. For a band whose music is all about the profusion of ideas (tunes, sounds, noises, surprises, shifts) touring an album - however good that album is - rather runs against the grain of the creative process. They looked like a band who couldn't wait to get back into the studio to make more ideas-filled music to amaze us with. I'm not the only one who can't wait. Jen Jeniro have had to wait. It's inevitable that festivals over-run a bit. Well, it is when you don't have Glastonbury councillors at the side of the stage writing out fines in the tens of thousands for every minute over curfew. Jen Jeniro: By now, the drizzle is a thick mist. People who've booked taxis or need to get back for babysitters or who are just too stewed on drinking beer outdoors, have started to make their way home. Jen Jeniro pick up their instruments in front of the hardcore music lovers attending the festival. But it's a sporadic crowd and a great shame for those who miss them. I've never seen jen Jeniro live, before. They thrum somewhere a few feet above the stage. It's contemporary folkish psychedelia. Somewhat Midlake but with something dark and intriguing hidden amongst the West Coast harmonies. Singer Syriol doesn't appear to be all there. He has something of a young Jim Morrison about him, fortunately without the exhibitionist tendencies. The end of the set smoulders in more ways than one, an illusion exacerbated by DJ Fuzzyfelt's virtuoso performance on smoke machine. The band's notes hang in the drizzle long after they've finished playing and are still reverberating around my knackered soul. Very special indeed. Their pink and yellow cassingle is destined to become as collectable as all those early releases by Super Furry Animals and Gorkys. But you should buy it because it's like discovering Narnia in your ears, without the tiresome allegories. I loved my first Gwyl Gardd Goll. Make a date for it in 2011. You won't be disappointed.

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  2. No, we're not forcing them to use calculators and do our maths homework... Our colourful little friends are in real trouble with almost half of UK butterflies under threat and 70% of common moths being in serious decline. Environmental changes and loss of habitat - particularly farmland are thought to be the main contributing factors for their demise. We've had dozens of stunning butterfly images submitted to our Flickr group this summer and they are a firm favourite amongst wildlife photographers and nature lovers all over Wales. Welsh naturalist Iolo Williams has joined forces with Butterfly Conservation to raise awareness about dwindling numbers here in Wales. Iolo recently visited Wynn Gardens at Old Colwyn and urged everyone to get involved to help build up a picture of how the insects are faring across the UK. A pair of common blues by Dr Murray from our Flickr group: Sir David Attenborough - the granddaddy of all things natural history has also added his considerable backing to the campaign which runs from 25 July to 1 August. Over the last hundred years, 4 species of butterfly and over sixty moths have become extinct - gone forever and let's face it - summer would be pretty dull without them. Visit the Butterfly Conservation website to find out how you can help. You can download a free butterfly ID chart and log your sightings online. Choose a location and spend fifteen minutes there counting butterflies - it's that simple. Read a BBC News Online article about the campaign Watch a video about moths & butterflies on our website. Gull

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  3. An exhibition featuring some of the best contemporary art in Wales has gone on display at the St Dogmaels Gallery summer show. The summer exhibition at the gallery in Cardigan showcases painting, photography, sculpture and film, and features work by artists such as Dan Backhouse, Elizabeth Ha...

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  4. As Killing For Company release their tribute to Stuart Cable, Former Mining Town, they came into the Radio Wales studio to talk to Jamie And Louise. Joined by Stuart Cable's partner Rachel, the band talked about the life of their bandmate and the single release, which will be in aid of two of Stuart's favourite charities. Rachel also talked about the level of support that other musicians have given to her and the single release, including Sir Tom Jones, Roger Daltrey and Oasis. Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login. Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

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  5. The YouTube phenomenon Newport (Ymerodraeth State of Mind), which at the time of writing has had over 1.5 million views, may be released as a single next month, with some proceeds going to charity. Speaking to The Western Mail, Terema Wainwright, who took the Alicia Keys role in the spoof of Empire State Of Mind, said, "We have got a meeting with Universal Records about the possibility of signing a contract and that is incredible - I'm still pinching myself." Alex Warren, Jay-Z in the video, said, "I know the aim is to get it out as soon as possible". A portion of the profits generated from sales of the single will go to Newport Mind, the mental health charity. Wainwright, Warren and the band will be appearing at the reopening of the Newport Transporter Bridge this Friday. Been under a rock? Watch the video on YouTube (contains strong language). Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login. Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

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  6. The natural wonders of Blaenau Gwent will come to life on the Eisteddfod field this weekend as local children, in the company of Welsh poet and broadcaster - Caryl Parry Jones, will present poems about the natural wonders where they live. During early summer, pupils from Brynmawr Foundation School and Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg spent time learning about local nature and the rich habitats that exist right on their doorstep. The children explored Beaufort Hill Ponds and Woodland Local Nature Reserve, near Cwm Clydach, with the Brecon Beacons National Park to the north and the towns of Brynmawr and Beaufort to the south. Having learnt about local wildlife and conservation they returned to the classroom to begin their master pieces based on their own experiences. Caryl Parry Jones said: "It's been fantastic to see them expressing such enthusiasm about their local environment - finding the right words to convey their feelings and letting their imaginations run wild!" "It's a great way to build children's confidence and I'm sure they will enjoy reading their work aloud at the Eisteddfod to inspire others to visit the fantastic nature sites, which are a stone's throw from the Eisteddfod field." Find out more by visiting the CCW stand at the Eisteddfod - number 225-226 and find out how you can explore and enjoy the Welsh countryside. Learn about biodiversity in Blaenau Gwent. Gull

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  7. Lostprophets frontman Ian Watkins joined Bethan Elfyn on her radio show last Saturday and played tracks from his Personal Playlist. In an entertaining, engaging and honest interview, Ian talked about 10 years of the band, their hits, starting out and the lost album. Alongside the interview,...

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  8. I've just sat here at my desk, headphones on, for the last 30 minutes, listening to the new Manic Street Preachers single on repeat. (It's Not War) Just The End Of Love is the first track to be released from their 10th studio album, Postcards From A Young Man. The single will be released on 13 September with the album following a week later. So what's the verdict? Well I like it, I really do. It's got a theatrical pop verve to it. A sweeping string-laden hook, classic Bradders growly verse and a widdly solo in the middle eight. The melody is simple but delivered with classic Manics panache. Given that I love the grand pomposity of Gold Against The Soul as much as the unrelenting murk of The Holy Bible, I'd say this leans more to the former, albeit with a lightness of touch that has come with advancing years. Canvassing a few of my social media contacts (they used to be called friends, back in the day), there's a positive attitude on the first few listens. "It kinda sounds like Burt Bacharach and Queen. Not a bad thing" said one. I see what he means. Another compared it to Smashing Pumpkins' classic 1995 top ten single Tonight Tonight. If it didn't have the axe-shredding - albeit short - solo, this single may stray into the plodding, but allied to James' manipulation of the vocals it staves off boredom. It's a bit like Design For Life in that way. That we should be discussing the quality of a new Manics single is in itself astounding. They've had their ups and downs of course but this band is 25 years old pretty much and are still writing interesting music worthy of debate. In their 40s the Stones had pretty much lapsed into self-parody and farce. Queen's 10th studio album was The Works which - until 72,000 people hand-clapped to Radio GaGa at Live Aid - was a failure. They were treading water. Many big bands never get that far and collapse into ego- / drug- / booze-fuelled antipathy or outright hatred. Treading water is what we expect bands of this vintage to do. They're in their 40s and rock music is, like, for The Kids... isn't it? Not on this evidence; good bands, with intelligence to match their musical skills are managing to outlive the expectations and conventions of the music industry. Wales should be proud of Manic Street Preachers; this single and album may not sell huge amounts and it may not change the world, but if I get to my mid-40s and have anything of worth to foist upon the world I'll be glad. What do you think? Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login. Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

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  9. The winner of the 2010 Photomarathon UK competition was unveiled on Friday evening, following the photographic event that took place in Cardiff on Saturday 12 June. From over 400 participants, Nigel Leach from Gileston near Barry has been crowned this year's competition winner, in which snap-...

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  10. Writer, presenter and history blogger Phil Carradice will appear on the Roy Noble Show this afternoon (Monday 26 July) to talk about a walk around Pembroke that he has written as part of the BBC's Norman Season which highlights the effect the Normans have had on our civilisation. Pembroke was ...

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