Gwych Sounds: October 2010
Once a month I'm going to herd together five of the most interesting Welsh self-releases/demos that have come my way, eulogise them, let you hear them, and point you in the direction of where you can find out more about the artists concerned. Of course, if you have a nomination of your own that I've ignorantly failed to support, you're welcome to tell us about it by commenting below.
These are the greatest self-released/unsigned sounds that have blessed my eardrums in the past month: the gwych sounds, if you will.
HAIL! THE PLANES - Brother
Cardiff's Hail! The Planes make sounds that resonate at exactly the same frequency as your heart. It's a rare skill. This is one of my favourite recordings of recent years. It's intimate yet spacious, cinematic and moving. It reminds me of The Delgados and, when the harmonies ghost in, the kind of French mood pop that inspired Stereolab. But most of all, it sounds like nothing else I'm hearing in Wales at the moment. A great, free musical spirit unconstrained by form or any desire to spear the Zeitgeist. How refreshing! Music that levitates melancholy.
This is one of two tracks available on their excellent Brother, I'm Sinking EP produced by Charlie Francis (REM, High Llamas, Pixies). It's available to purchase from their bandcamp site.
TRWBADOR - Off Beat
Angharad and Owain hail from west Wales and Cwmbran. There's a wide-eared wonder and playfulness to their sound as if they were deserted at birth and raised by the instruments in the school music cupboard. They've just completed their début EP. It's like Spring after a long barren winter. There is much I love about this track, Off Beat.
I love the off kilter, retuned vocal because it shows that to them it's the recording that's all important, fully-realising and executing their best ideas with whatever tools are to hand. I love the 'beep bop' call and refrain section. I love the way it nods its head to Cornelius's Drop.
I love the fact that, given their youth, they'll be treating us to their unbridled sense of aural possibilities for many years to come. And I love the end of this track more than any other track I can think of. "Bafflingly off beat." Beautifully, too.
DRAINS - Sports Illustrated
Yikes! A car crash cacophony of fuzz, torn vocal chords and bust guitars heralds the arrival of Cardiff's Drains. This sounds like rock'n'roll's past being trashed by sledgehammers. They'll never end up on Jools Holland or VH1 or in Q Magazine. They will, however, be appearing at our BBC Introducing night at Swn Festival. How great is that?
EMMY'S UNICORN - Kate
Swansea's Adam Lewis, aka Mr Ronz, has hitherto been best known for his cinematic, instrumental breakbeats and for his acclaimed soundtrack work (Noel Clarke's 4,3,2,1, Law and Order:UK etc.). This year he's been working with vocalist Emmy Lou, under the name Emmy's Unicorn. These are lushly dramatic homages to bruised hearts borne along by big sounds and insidious melodies. Neither Florence nor any of her machines can make a sound as alluring. The little swells of lapsteel make me want to melt. Ace.
PORTALS - Curtain Times
Rob Morgan is also from Swansea. Previously he operated his synths and software as solo artist Lifting Gear Engineer. For the last couple of years he's been collaborating with friends from the Swansea Valleys as Portals. Rob's signature is his innate ability to create sounds that sit together incredibly well and convince.
On this track from his recently released Know Your Flags EP listen to how well the lowdown, scuzzy guitars fit with the sawtoothed synths and vocoder. But Rob isn't just a tonal artisan, he understands that great sounds need to be spun into great shapes for them to have any value. And the shapes that Portals create are intriguing: webs of pulsing analogue synths on a framework of Krautrock-beats.
This is great love for electronic music in all its forms made manifest. A triumph of the finest oscillations. Excellent.
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