Archives for September 2011

Recording Doctor Who soundtracks

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 09:00 UK time, Thursday, 29 September 2011

I come from a family of Doctor Who fans. If he were on Mastermind, Doctor Who would probably be my cousin Nick's specialist subject. When I got my job, I think one of Nick's first questions was when would my first Doctor Who session be.

Recording a soundtrack for a show as celebrated as Doctor Who may seem like the coolest thing since the Daleks learned to hover circa 2005, and I remember the excitement I felt on the morning of my first Doctor Who session.

The sad truth is, soundtrack recordings are not glamorous affairs. You come into the studio and there's a small rainforest of music on your stand, time is already ticking, and if Ben Foster weren't such a good session director, I doubt it would be covered in a day.

I shall now dispel a number of recording studio myths:

  1. Cans: You know the headphones that people in rock videos wear at jaunty angles? These may look cool in video mash-ups of soundtrack recordings, however, they are not - they are unwieldy, silly things, that never fit properly, and if you have a smallish head, have a tendency to threaten to slide off, usually at a rather inconvenient moment.
  2. Click tracks: This is the continuous click played through the horrible cans of point one. Its purpose is to have everyone playing militarily together so the music can be lined up, to the millisecond, with the visuals. This may seem like the ultimate in 'I'm Doing Proper, Serious, Professional Recording Stuff', but in fact, it is like Chinese water torture.
  3. Monitors: We do not see the on-screen action these days whilst recording the music. You know that wonderful scene in The Pandorica Opens when the Doctor gives an epic Churchillian speech from atop a boulder at Stonehenge? We did not see that.
  4. The Red Light: The cue to play is a little red light. You'd imagine this is the moment when a hushed, concentrated silence falls on the studio. Pah! This is the moment when that little tickle at the back of your throat will erupt into a full scale coughing fit, or some brass player will kick over their mute, or someone's chair will squeak and the take will be ruined and you have to do the whole take YET AGAIN!

On the positive side, recording days are normally cake days. I like this. We in the viola section pride ourselves on our excellent cheesecakes and brownies.

Points one to four aside, Doctor Who recordings are a painless affair (not just because of the cakes). Any aspiring TV and film composers should take a leaf out of Murray Gold and Ben Foster's book - they are always super organised and have a very definite idea of what they want.

On 19 July, we recorded the music for the second half of Doctor Who season six - which concludes with the season finale this Saturday. I can assure you that no one in the orchestra knows anything about plot lines, so don't bother asking. The truth is, even if I did know anything, I wouldn't say, even to my cousin, and he let me be his daughter's godmother.

Cardiff wins international bid to host WOMEX World Music Expo in 2013

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James McLaren James McLaren | 12:00 UK time, Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Cardiff has been selected as the city to host WOMEX, the world music expo, in 2013. The announcement, made today at the Wales Millennium Centre, comes at the end of a year-long campaign to bring the event to the Welsh capital.

Described by UNESCO as the most important international professional market of world music of every kind, WOMEX evening performances will be held at the Wales Millennium Centre, and the day time showcases, trade fair, conference and film screenings will be held at the Motorpoint Arena Cardiff.

The international showcase event is expected to include around 60 concerts featuring 300 plus artists, a trade fair exhibiting in the region of 650 companies from over 90 countries, as well as more than 400 national and international journalists, and will take place from 23-27 October 2013.

Welcoming the news Rt. Hon Carwyn Jones AM, the Welsh Government's First Minister said: "WOMEX is a great opportunity to bring the most important world music stage to Wales as well as developing the sector in a sustainable way within our country.

"WOMEX 13 Cardiff will place the music from Wales on the world stage alongside more established markets so that Wales' authentic music traditions become more widely known internationally and are positioned beside music from our Celtic neighbours. Hosting WOMEX will allow us to grow the profile of Wales's traditional music, both within and out of the country."

The bid to host WOMEX in 2013 was led by Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales, a partnership between Welsh Music Foundation, Wales Arts International and Arts Council of Wales (ACW), with support from British Council and Welsh Government.

Dai Smith, Chair of ACW said: "This is a wonderful achievement for Wales. Persuading WOMEX to come to Wales has been a long-standing ambition for ACW and our partners. This event, of worldwide significance, is an important part of our wider plans to develop a vibrant and exciting music industry in Wales."

Daniela Teuber, WOMEX Director of Production said: "We're very happy that Cardiff will be hosting WOMEX in 2013. The city offers a most favourable setting for our complex event and its 2500 delegates and artists from all over the globe. The production partners in Wales are truly professional and highly motivated. The wonderful venues are in close proximity and match our multifaceted needs. Wales has outstanding cultural wealth, hospitality and scenic beauty."

On The Transmigration Of Souls...

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 08:34 UK time, Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Few events of the 21st century have shaped our political and social consciousness in the same way as the events of 11 September 2001. Pretty much everyone can remember where they where and what they were doing when they heard or saw the news regarding the attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon for the first time.

For all the terrifying political consequences that day set in motion, it is the human cost that still rings the most tragic, and the impact of those gone on those left behind.

On Friday, we will be performing John Adams' On The Transmigration Of Souls. It was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and the Lincoln Centre's Great Performers as a work of commemoration. The work does not seek to sentimentally play on the listener's emotions regarding the events of 11 September, nor is it a voyeuristic look at someone else's pain.

The work is for orchestra, children's choir, chorus and pre-recorded tape. Don't be put off by the pre-recorded tape bit - it isn't weird or wacky in anyway. It's a little bit more like a script that the music intertwines around. I find the orchestral parts really beautiful. In the opening section, there is a sense of suspended animation that gradually builds towards the agitated climax.

In many ways, it is typical of what you would expect from John Adams - lots of little repeated figures, the music building up in layers, pace coming from the diminution of rhythmical figures. On the other hand, I feel that this work has more of an emotional pull than is often associated with music that has the minimalist label attached to it. I know this is partially due to the intensity of the subject matter, but I also feel that the synthesis of parts making up On The Transmigration Of Souls creates a very powerful whole.

In an atrocity where one could be overwhelmed by sheer numbers, Adams' work makes each lost individual and each affected father, mother, sibling, spouse, child, significant. He succeeds in turning the thousands of faceless victims into significant individuals. This is no gimmicky use of recorded material, no cheap playing on an audience's emotions, but rather a sensitive, respectful, and in my opinion anyway, a beautiful memorial (or 'memory space' as the composer himself called it) to those lost, and indeed, to those left behind.

I've listened to this work a lot over the last while and am really looking forward to rehearsing and performing it. Rehearsals begin on Tuesday with our Principal Conductor, Thierry Fischer, corralling the amassed forces of choir and orchestra through not just this work, but also Beethoven's mighty Ninth Symphony which will take centre stage for the concert's second half.

Undoubtedly, On The Transmigration Of Souls is a challenging listen. It would take a very hard hearted person to not be moved in some way by it, but this is definitely a concert not to be missed.

You can catch Laura and the rest of the Orchestra in concert at St David's Hall on Friday 30 September, 7.30pm. Tickets are available by calling the Orchestra's Audience Line on 0800 052 1812, or St David's Hall on 02920 878444.

Adam Walton playlist and show info: Sunday 25 September 2011

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 09:07 UK time, Monday, 26 September 2011

This week's show is now available via the iPlayer. Please visit the link at any time between now and the start of the next programme.

Hello music hounds. Well, I'm rather proud (but not smug) about this week's collection of sonics. There's great stuff in more abundance than the quadrillions of leaves just waiting to parachute into my back garden, thus ensuring I have a bad back and a worse mien for the whole autumn.

There are début plays for Zen Zen Egui, Sex Hands (and wow! are they great), S T D, Cue Fanfare, Nia Roberts (just phenomenal, I think - real vision and a unique voice), Osian Howells and Evanjack.

Lara Catrin translates some Euros Childs for us. He loves a woman in a cave, by all accounts - good ol' Euros.

Ben Hayes plays us the finest Motown recording that wasn't on Motown and we have a rare, vintage session track from Throwing Muses to highlight their forthcoming gig in Cardiff (at the Gate on the 8 November). Tickets are available at the usual outlets. See you there!

Please send demos/new releases/gig info etcetera to themysterytour@gmail.com.

I highly recommend checking these articles out before you send your tracks. They go into exhaustive, long-winded detail about what I'm looking for, and highlight some of the things you can do to improve your chances of radio play: submitting music to the show - dos and don'ts: #1, #2, #3, #4.

Hmm - 'Dos and Don'ts' sounds a little didactic. It's more like half decent advice dressed up in flouncy verbosity.

Next week's show will feature Land Of Bingo's set from this year's Gwyl Gardd Goll.

My gig of the week is Gruff Rhys and Y Niwl's appearance at Venue Cymru in Llandudno on Sunday 2 October.

Have an excellent, music-filled week!

Y NIWL - 'Un Deg Saith'
Gwynedd

ZUN ZUN EGUI - 'Katang'
Bristol

MASTERS IN FRANCE - 'Orbitoclast'
Caernarfon

AMONG BROTHERS - 'Loved'
Cardiff / Aberdare

PAPER AEROPLANES - 'All You Need'
Milford Haven

SEX HANDS - 'Parker V 1'
Dwygfylchi / Llanfairfechan / Conwy

ADD N TO X - 'Total All Out Water'
London

FLYSCREEN - 'Pop Song Sing A Long'
Newport

REVOKER - 'Great Pretender'
Rhymney Valley

TRUCKERS OF HUSK - 'Dear Malcolm Sullivan I Hope You're Alive?'
Cardiff

LANDSLIDE - 'Cold Featuring Spoonface ( Jangle Remix )'
Cardiff

S T D - 'Petit Mal'
Cardiff

HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT - 'Fix It So She Dreams Of Me'
Birkenhead

THROWING MUSES - 'Snakeface [ Bbc Radio Wales Session December 1994 ]'
Providence, Rhode Island

SPARROW AND THE WORKSHOP - 'You Don't Trust Anyone'
Wales

GRUFF RHYS - 'Space Dust #2'
Bethesda

COLORAMA - 'Eleri'
Benllech

CUE FANFARE - 'Robot'
Bristol

COCTEAU TWINS - 'Fifty - Fifty Clown'
Grangemouth, Scotlans

MELYS - 'Ambulance Chaser'
Capel Curig / Betws Y Coed

EXIT INTERNATIONAL - 'My Mouth Is Your Mouth'
Cardiff

JOANNA GRUESOME - 'Lemonade Grrl'
Cardiff

CATHERINE A D - 'Waiting To Breathe'
Merthyr Tydfil

RITCHIE FRANCIS - 'It Will Last'
Neath

DAVE ELWYN - 'Short Fuse Blues'
Bala

VALENTINOS, THE - 'I Used To Love Her'
Cleveland, Ohio

BLAKTRIX - 'No Drama ( Featuring Ralph Rip Shit )'
Cardiff

MICE GIRLS - 'Twitchcraft'
Cardiff

THREATMANTICS - 'Esgyrn'
Cardiff

EILIR PIERCE - 'Stop And Come With Me To The Pub'
Ruthin / Bethesda

LOVELY EGGS, THE - 'Don't Look At Me (i Don't Like It)'
Lancaster

HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT - 'Descent Of The Stiperstones'
Birkenhead

NIA ROBERTS - 'Mescaline'
Llandudno

CATFISH AND THE BOTTLEMEN - 'Sidewinder'
Llandudno

CASTOR - 'London Stock Exchange'
Prestatyn

NO THEE NO ESS - 'Wilderness Road'
Swansea / Cardiff

SEX HANDS - 'Way No Way'
Dwygfylchi / Llanfairfechan / Conwy

REDLIP - 'Ascending Thing'
Bangor / Northern Ireland

OSIAN HOWELLS - 'Birds Flying High'
Llanrwst

LARA CATRIN - 'Spoken Contribution'
Bangor / Cardiff

EUROS CHILDS - 'Dawnsio Dros Y Mor'
Pembrokeshire

BEN HAYES - 'Spoken Contribution'
Ruthin

HONEY CONE - 'Sunday Morning People'
Los Angeles

EVANJACK - 'Hurt'
Merthyr Tydfil

PRETTY THINGS, THE - 'The Letter'
London

I'm in a terrible huff today...

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 08:29 UK time, Monday, 26 September 2011

When we were little, my friend Erin attended elocution lessons and I have a distinct memory of the opening line of one of the poems she learnt. "I'm in a terrible huff today" was how it went and that pretty much sums up how I feel today.

I am on call. Sometimes a piece of music doesn't require the full complement of players and, in the strings at least, this means that there is the possibility for time off, working on a rota system. This week, I am first on call, so while I am not technically needed, I can't really do anything in case someone goes off ill and I'm called in.

Although these extra few days off will give me a chance to get Beethoven 9 and Adams' On The Transmigration of Souls under the fingers for next week (as well as maybe tackling the mountain of ironing I've hidden in my store room), I really like the programme I am missing and am decidedly unimpressed to not be playing. However, it is my turn to have time off on the rota, so here I am. At home. Not playing Beethoven 7 or Shostakovich's Cello Concerto 1.

I've already explained how much I love playing Beethoven 7, but I am also a huge fan of Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No 1.

Being a little bit of a musical ignoramus until my early 20s, it was only when I was at college that I discovered this concerto. It was one of those things that you know you should listen to but never quite get round to, a little bit like reading War And Peace (though decidedly shorter and infinitely more exciting). I sat down in the college library to listen to it one afternoon, when no doubt I should have be practising, and listened to it several times in a row. It blew me away.

It sounds like the best bits from all the Shostakovich symphonies. The high octane first movement is permeated with the motif of Shostakovich's name. The second movement has everything you would expect from a Shostakovich second movement - searing strings, heart wrenching melodic lines, ominous harmonies creeping in. The third movement is an exhilarating race from beginning to end, the music turning corners on a penny, swirling wind lines, lightening speed chromatics in the solo cello.

This weekend is also an opportunity for Newtown and St Asaph audiences to hear cellist Thomas Carroll play. Originally a Swansea boy, Thomas is fast making a name for himself internationally, both as a concerto soloist and chamber musician.

So... if you're in St Asaph on Saturday or Newtown on Sunday, give my colleagues a wave. I hope they all enjoy themselves very much. If you can't make it to the concert, you can still read about the programme by downloading the programme notes from our website. Also, if anyone recognises the opening line of the Huff poem, I'd love to know who the author is!

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Black Eyed Peas confirmed for Michael Forever

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James McLaren James McLaren | 12:19 UK time, Friday, 23 September 2011

Black Eyed Peas have confirmed their participation in Michael Forever, the tribute concert for Michael Jackson due to be held on 8 October at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

Blck Eyed Peas

Blck Eyed Peas

The Los Angeles band have paid tribute to Jackson at all their live performances since his death. Will.i.am of the band said: "This show is going to be an incredibly personal and moving evening for me.

"Remember that Michael's music, his great, great songs, have been an inspiration to my whole life and certainly formed the soundtrack to my childhood. When I was a little kid of six or seven growing up in Los Angeles, there was Michael recording Thriller, and all his early hits, just a few miles away across town - obviously I didn't know him at that time, but I loved him as a fan.

"Then one day about four years ago, with The Black Eyed Peas well established, I got a call from him I will never forget. I then had the great privilege of working with him and getting to know him and his beautiful family.

"That's why The Black Eyed Peas wouldn't miss being at the Millennium Stadium for this gig on 8 October; we all owe Michael such a lot.

"It seems plain to me that the real star of this tribute to Michael is going to be the MUSIC itself. And that's the only way it should be."

Michael's brother Marlon Jackson said: "We're all really delighted and touched that the Black Eyed Peas are able to come and take part. My brother rated Will.i.am and the original things he does in music very highly. I guess you could say it was a case of mutual respect."

The line-up so far: Black Eyed Peas, Jennifer Hudson, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, Leona Lewis, Alexandra Burke, JLS, Diversity, Ne-Yo, Pixie Lott, Alien Ant Farm, Jamie Foxx, 3T and Craig David.

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.

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The cabinet maker

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 14:49 UK time, Thursday, 22 September 2011

I have been reading - increasingly - of the economic hardships some of our most respected artists are facing during these hard times. We're all under the cosh, of course, but for many of our revered, leftfield musical minds the situation is compounded by the fact that 'touring musician 1999-2011' doesn't look great on a CV. Being able to finger a Bm with an authority that elevates you from the morass isn't a transferable skill.

The real frustration for me, as someone who so values the music these people make, is that these artists would not be struggling if the tens of thousands of people around the world who consume their music had all paid for the privilege.

And it is a privilege.

We're on the verge of losing these bands for good. Fact. Amateur hacks will run amok, the corporate puppets will cast even greater shadows. If you love off-centre music that can't be made on a laptop and can't afford to be given away for free, now is the time to fight for it, to value it.

I started writing a particularly sanctimonious blog on the subject. Something of a parable grew in its place...

Read the rest of this entry

Nirvana: Nevermind Forever - Welsh bands in on a cover-up

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:18 UK time, Thursday, 22 September 2011

In all the material published this month about the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's Nevermind (the record which changed rock/music/the world etc etc), there was one publication which has stood out for me.

Kerrang! magazine, the go-to organ for young rock fans since 1981, has included the usual information about its genesis, importance and influence, but they've taken a brave step and included a cover-mount CD this week: a 're-imagining' of the classic album by 14 different artists, covering the tracks in order (plus a bonus of the inter-album single Sliver).

Nevermind Forever sleeve

Nevermind Forever sleeve

It's never normally a good idea to cover classic tracks, let alone whole albums. The history of music is littered with bobbins cover versions, and the successful ones are few and far between. Usually, the element which made the originals into classics has been lost. The worst culprits manage to strip all soul and emotion from the song in favour of a highly-polished sheen (All Saints doing Under The Bridge, Madonna's American Pie or Hilary Duff doing My Generation, anyone?).

Given the dangers, you've got to admire the chutzpah of a project like Kerrang!'s. It's difficult to imagine an album as dearly-held by as many people as Nevermind. And it's difficult to over-emphasise the importance of the record; it even forced a major rethink on Kerrang! itself, back in the day. On its release in 1991, Guns N' Roses had produced the sprawling, coke-fuelled twin towers of stadium rock in Use Your Illusion volumes I and II: a gargantuan testament to the excess of 1980s American musical flatulence. Skid Row, Poison and Extreme were bona fide cover stars.

Nevermind shook these bands and their ilk to the core. Honesty, integrity and dirty pants were IN; spandex, hairspray and voting Republican was OUT. Kerrang! and other rock mags ditched their mates of old and suddenly it was all about Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and Smashing Pumpkins. I don't think I ever saw Warrant referred to again.

Tracks from Nevermind have been covered before, it's true. Tori Amos recorded a version of Smells Like Spirit, as did Take That, Paul Anka, The Flying Pickets, Miley Cyrus and Nirvana's mates The Melvins. Lithium has been done by The Polyphonic Spree and Glasvegas have done Come As You Are. And Nirvana themselves were notorious cover artists in their own right. Their best-known is probably Love Buzz (originally by Shocking Blue), and there are the covers on Unplugged In New York including Bowie's The Man Who Sold The World, but they did a couple of dozen more over the years.

Kurt was inscrutable at the best of times, and I wouldn't hazard a guess at what he'd make of Kerrang!'s idea (he called Tori Amos' Teen Spirit "a great breakfast cereal version") but as an affectionate tribute, it's pretty damned good.

Kids In Glass Houses

There are two Welsh bands getting in on the act. Kids In Glass Houses tackle Drain You. Aled Phillips tells the magazine: "I was five when Nevermind came out. My sister taught me to hangbang to Teen Spirit. With Drain You, we thought it would be fun to recreate the middle eight, where Butch Vig recorded aerosols and a rubber duck. We bought a squeaky toy from Tesco and some Glade vanilla room spray. Smells like teen spirit..." In truth, it's a straightforward cover, with Phillips' vocals tracking Kurt's faithfully and the guitars blazing with well-marshalled distortion.

The Blackout

The Blackout

The Blackout's Stay Away is a more frenetic affair, as befitting the original. Again, it's true to the original but there's a sense of fun here: the Gavin/Sean vocal partnership gets to stretch its legs and it's pretty brutal. Gavin even goes as far as to put an American inflection on his lines. Rhys of the band told Kerrang!: "Nevermind was the album that got me into playing bass. Covering Stay Away is an honour. We're a hard rock band and this song is pretty heavy so I think we've captured the same feeling and intensity."

For me, though, the stand-out track here is Evile's Lounge Act. If I accept, as I do, that this collection was never going to replicate the unified, intense, wholeness of Nevermind, then here's a cover version that does something interesting with its material. They metal it up, with an amped-up riff and a lead guitar of admirable squeal and squall.

Check out Frank Turner's On A Plain, Francesqa's Lithium, Young Guns' Polly and Rise To Remain's Breed too. Nirvana: Nevermind Forever is as close as to a quality covers album as you're going to get. But what strikes me, on repeated listening, is that this album couldn't work without the fact that Nevermind itself possessed 13 songs of almost unparalleled quality, passion and melody. What other album could allow itself to be approached in this way?

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.

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Adam Walton playlist and show info: Sunday 18 September 2011

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 08:06 UK time, Thursday, 22 September 2011

This week's show is now available via the BBC iPlayer. Please visit the link any time between now and the start of the next programme.

The show features début plays for Richard Llewellyn Williams and the Cr ABC, Scriber, Emily And The Faves, Tock, Iris 3 and Mr Jelly's Gazebo.

We play exciting new shizzle from Truckers Of Husk (at last!), Exit International and Richard James.

Huw Williams comes in to pay tribute to Man's keyboard wizard Clive John, Lara Catrin translates Ffa Coffi Pawb's Breichiau Hir, and there is a little bit of Nirvana to acknowledge the influence that Nevermind (20 years old this week) has had on Welsh music.

Please send demos/new releases/gig info etc to themysterytour@gmail.com.

I highly recommend checking this article out before you send your tracks. They go into exhaustive, long-winded detail about what I'm looking for, and highlight some of the things you can do to improve your chances of radio play: submitting music to the show - dos and don'ts #1, #2, #3, #4.

Have an excellent, music-filled week!

By the way, some stats: Since 1 January 2011 - 1229 unique songs, 1562 total, 704 artists in 37 shows, songs per show:42, unique artists per show: 19, Welsh: 93%.

TRUCKERS OF HUSK - 'Staynicegetradical'
Cardiff

NEU! - 'After Eight'
Düsseldorf, Germany

EXIT INTERNATIONAL - 'Bowie's Ghost'
Cardiff

STRANGE NEWS FROM ANOTHER STAR - 'I Am Weatherproof ( Album Version )'
Cardiff

NIRVANA - 'Territorial Pissings'
Seattle

DRAINS - 'Avon Barksdale'
Cardiff

MC MABON - 'Health And Safety'
Caernarfon

MYKES - 'Spin That Wax'
Swansea

FRIENDS ELECTRIC - 'Puzzle Pieces'
Neath

PRESK - 'Slick Rick'
Eindhoven / Swansea

VVOLVES - 'Clearer ( E P Version )'
Monmouth / Cardiff

LOS CAMPESINOS - 'By Your Hand'
Cardiff

MCLUSKY - 'She Will Only Bring You Happiness'
Cardiff

SOFT-HEARTED SCIENTISTS - 'Tornadoes In Birmingham'
Cardiff

RICHARD LLEWELLYN WILLIAMS / CôR ABC - 'Suar'r Gwynt'
Llanfyllin

WE ARE ANIMAL - 'Work'
Bethel / Caernarfon

BASTIONS - 'The Lengths ( When Wants Become Needs )'
Angelsey

SCRIBER - 'Holland House'
Cardiff

RICHARD JAMES - 'Do You Know The Way To My Heart?'
Croes - Y - Ceiliog

GORKY'S ZYGOTIC MYNCI - 'Freckles'
Camarthen

GIRLS - 'Magic Lantern Show'
San Francisco ( Welsh Management )

CERI FROST - 'High 5's And Drive By's'
Cardiff

EMILY & THE FAVES - 'I Never Saw'
Liverpool

SLEEPY PANDA CLUB - 'Ghost In The Mirrorr'
Swansea

HYSTERICAL INJURY - 'Futuristic Nightmare'
Bath / Llandeilo

PAVEMENT - 'Peublo'
California

MOWBIRD - 'Handmedown'
Wrexham

PINK FLOYD, THE - 'Lucifer Sam'
London

LUNGWAH - 'My Lover Returns [ Chuch Remix ]'
Bangor

HUW WILLIAMS - 'Spoken Contribution'
Swansea

BOOM BIP - 'Do As I Do ( Featuring Cate Le Bon )'
Los Angeles / Penboyr

MAN - 'Keep On Crinting'
Merthyr Tydfil

TOCK - 'I Don't Care'
Florida / Swansea

IRIS3 - '13'
Holyhead

EUROS CHILDS - 'Don't Get Wonky'
Pembrokeshire

H. HAWKLINE - 'My Dreams'
Cardiff

MR JELLY'S GAZEBO - 'Fruit Bag'
Mumbles / Swansea

NO THEE NO ESS - 'Let's Get Away'
Swansea / Cardiff

JEWELLERS - 'Weightless'
Newport

MEILIR - 'Less Wrong (part 1)'
Brynford

GOLDEN FABLE - 'The Chill Pt. 2'
Ewloe

LARA CATRIN - 'Spoken Contribution'
Bangor / Cardiff

FFA COFFI PAWB - 'Breichiau Hir'
Bethesda

MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY - 'Iceberg'
Cardiff

BOO RADLEYS, THE - 'Lazy Day'
Liverpool

Introducing Uploader Update

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Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 13:29 UK time, Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Most weeks I try and catch up with the hundreds of new songs that are sent our way from brand new musicians, via the BBC Introducing Uploader. The uploader has replaced the old system of sending your demo in to a radio station, and is a handy little tool for musicians and journos alike: we can mark and download songs we're interested in, and the musician will get an automated email to say we've listened. So hopefully it's win-win.

The only downside if I'm honest is the sheer volume and sometimes lack of quality control on the uploads. In order to find the gems you've got to trawl through a lot of painful music that either isn't ready to be in the world yet, or hasn't been recorded well, or suffers from really bad vocals, bad lyrics, bad guitar playing, drums out of time, and everything that could possibly be wrong with a track. Musicians - check yourselves before you send in your track, please!

But the gems are worth it all, and it's fantastic getting to know artists from all over Wales that probably would find it difficult to get in touch without this system. I'm also in the privileged position of sending the good ones on to my colleague Tom Robinson to play on the Introducing show on BBC 6 Music, and we recommend artists on to play festival stages. This year BBC Radio Wales saw Cuba Cuba go through to play at Reading and Leeds.

So here are some tracks and a little about some new musicians I thought were pretty good on the Introducing Uploader this week:

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Ceri Frost - No Time Like the Past
Solo artist and producer from Cardiff, has played in many bands in Cardiff's indie scene over the years, but as a songwriter he's magic. With a new album coming out this winter, the songs he's shared with us on the Uplaoader sound so classic, full, confident and excellent.

Big Si - Going Nowhere
How about some mellow hip hop with strong, confident lyrics, mellow melodies and samples from the wilds of north Wales? A hat doffed also as he's already worked alongside LL Cool J's producer DJ Bobcat, released four EPs online, and gained respect with the UK hip hop community. There are tracks available on his YouTube channel (some explicit lyrics and themes).

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Ookami - Sunsets (On The Mountain)
Ookami, although sounding exotic, are Rhodri and Theo from south Wales, who create all kinds of electronic house music. They produce really big and confident-sounding dance, which has a wonderful drive. It's dancefloor ready!

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Conek4 - All City
Conek4, aka Juan Barr, is a producer and DJ from Cardiff who makes some fluid music. He's a multi instrumentalist, and has created a beautiful drum and bass track here that I found on the Uploader. If you like what you hear, you can find more tunes from him on SoundCloud too.

Daine - Stranded
Daine aka Daine Rusowich is a 22 year old musician, who mainly plays in hardcore, punk and thrash bands, but needed an outlet for his softer side. He had some songs up his sleeve that definitely didn't fit into the bands he was in. There's a wonderful melancholia here: a great taster for his solo work for the future. It reminds me a little of James Blake but voice and guitar have a wonderful quality. You can watch a video for Stranded on YouTube.

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I have The Cold...

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 10:12 UK time, Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Is there anything more annoying than having the cold? You're not properly ill, so you can't exactly cry off work as that would be a bit pathetic, but on the other hand you feel so utterly ghastly that you want to cry (ghastly is my new favourite word - rediscovered courtesy of Downton Abbey). In my case it also makes me rather grumpy and I am not normally grumpy.

Such is the situation I have found myself in this week. I'm snuffling, too hot, then too cold, I sound like a baritone and I could give an over-excited German Shepherd dog a run for its money when it comes to the volume of the bark I have developed.

It would be bad enough if this horrendous ailment had chosen to plague me in a regular concert week. There are few things more embarrassing on stage than ruining a particularly poignant moment of some heart wrenching slow movement by having a fit of uncontrollable coughing. I still die a little every time I think about a performance of Shostakovich's Eighth String Quartet I ruined by coughing through its closing moments.

I did my best to stifle it, which only resulted in strange, strangled noises coming from my throat whilst my body convulsed and my bow arm lost control. I would have left the stage if I could, but I was hemmed in on all sides. It was, in short, a nightmare.

However, this week, it's even worse. We're recording. You can be certain that, as soon as that red light goes on, the urge to cough will be upon you. I have single-handedly ruined at least one otherwise pristine take today and have never been so glad to get out of the studio. There you are, playing away, when suddenly you feel that little warning tickle in the back of your throat. You try to take deep breathes and stifle the coming splutter in any manner you can, but its unstoppable. In fairness, I wasn't the only one; the viola section are going to have shares in throat sweets and bottled water by the end of this week.

So here is my guide to surviving the cold while recording:

  • Water. I, of course, forgot my water on the first day of recording this week and am very grateful to Carmel in the violins who sacrificed her bottle of water to my germy self.
  • Throat sweets or some other hard boiled sweet - naturally, you should probably unwrap this before the take starts otherwise you've kind of defeated the purpose.
  • Plan your escape route - because sometimes, it's just better to leave.
  • Practise your apologetic face!

Incidentally, the water and boiled sweet thing is a good idea for audience members with the cold too. Everyone feels sorry for the poor soul having a coughing fit. After all, it's not like they're having a lot of fun. However, rustling sweet wrappers are a bit irritating. I guess it is better, like a good boy scout, to always be prepared.

Gruff Rhys' Space Dust/Whale Trail single and game

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James McLaren James McLaren | 14:09 UK time, Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Gruff Rhys has announced a new double a-side single and accompanying mobile game, in addition to a forthcoming headline UK tour.

Gruff Rhys

The single is comprised of Space Dust #2 and Whale Trail. The former comes from his current album, Hotel Shampoo and is "a tale of short-lived, seminar-sparked romance in the form of a duet with El Perro Del Mar."

Whale Trail, is accompanied by an iPhone game of the same name. Players pilot Willow The Whale as he flies through the skies collecting colours and points. As well as the soundtrack to Willow The Whale's adventures, Gruff has also provided the voiceover, in Welsh.

The Whale Trail app has been designed by Neil McFarland of award winning digital design studio ustwo. His previous collaborations with Gruff include artwork for Super Furry Animals' Juxtaposed With You single and animations for the band's innovative Rings Around The World and Phantom Power DVD albums.

The digital double a-side single and Whale Trail game will be released on 20 October, with a limited-edition 12" vinyl single following on 31 October.

Books and music: A 'Desert Island Disc' evening in Cardiff Bay, Thursday 15 September

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Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 10:50 UK time, Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Over the past few weeks I've been doing an interesting project with Llên Cymru, Literature Wales, where we've had a 'Desert Island Discs' evening with some of Wales' finest writers.

The first evening was in English with the first poet laureate for Wales Gwyneth Lewis, and hip writer Joe Dunthorne, whose novel Submarine was made into a film recently. The first night was a huge success, with the writers choosing music ranging from Aphex Twin to Mozart. We heard how music plays a part in their lives, and how these tracks in particular bring back very good memories for them both.

Bethan with Catrin Dafydd and Dewi Prsyor

Bethan with Catrin Dafydd and Dewi Prsyor

The second evening, last Thursday, was with two Welsh language poets and writers: Catrin Dafydd, author of Pili Pala, Random Deaths And Custard, Y Dyn Handi and Tiwniwr Piano, and Dewi Prysor, author of Brithyll, Madarch, Crawia and Lladd Duw.

Both have had high praise indeed for their work. Catrin's Random Deaths And Custard came second in the Books To Be Talked About poll from The Guardian in 2009, and Dewi's Lladd Duw was shortlisted for the 2011 Wales Book Of The Year award, and was voted People's Choice by Golwg magazine. I've just finished Lladd Duw too and it was a gripping and jaw dropping read from start to finish: a gritty tale of two London gangsters trying to hide out in a quiet sleepy Welsh village and the mayhem that follows.

Catrin and Dewi have a wonderful sense of community, politics and comedy in their writing, so I was intrigued to hear what music they would choose for the evening. I've asked them both to write a little about their choices for this blog, so I could share with you some musical gems. Do look up the tracks as you read about them - you won't be disappointed!

Here are Catrin Dafydd's three choices and explanations:

Bob Roberts - Moliannwn (Sain)

"Bob Roberts Tai'r Felin from Cwmtirmynach near Bala has always been a hero of mine and should be hailed in Wales as a national treasure. Born in 1870, he was most famous for singing traditional songs and ballads in his community but later reached a wider audience when he performed on the BBC radio series Noson Lawen in the 1940s. Bob Roberts and others like him offer a key to our identity as Welsh people. He is best known for his song Moliannwn, a song about the coming of spring."

Nina Simone - Mississippi Goddam

"Nina Simone was a force of nature. She's been a favourite of mine since I was an early teenager. Her singing and piano playing taps into the very core of human existence. I chose Mississippi Goddam because it's an example of Nina at her best.

"She wrote the song in response to the assassination of the African American civil rights activist Medgar Evers in Mississippi and the church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four children. All oppressed people should be able to appreciate how simply and succinctly she calls for equality in this song."

Steve Eaves - Ymlaen Mae Canaan (Sain)

"Originally from Stoke-on-Trent, Steve Eaves is amongst Wales' most talented contemporary musicians. Singing only in Welsh, the singer-songwriter has recorded nine albums and is well known for his blues, jazz and rock. Eaves relates the struggle of Welsh language communities to common struggles across the world. He is spiritual yet pragmatic, local yet international. That's why I'm such a fan. I chose Ymlaen Mae Canaan - Onwards to Canaan because the words encapsulate the resilience of the human spirit."

Here are the choices from Dewi Prysor:

The Ruts - Jah War

"I love most music but my passion is punk, ska and dub reggae. My first love was punk, and my favourite of all those brilliant punk bands were The Ruts, Sex Pistols and The Damned. I had a friend in London, four years older than me, who was right in the middle of the punk scene and who used to spend school holidays next door to me in rural north Wales.

"He'd bring loads of home recorded tapes of all the latest punk bands' albums and singles, and I'd tape them. He later spent years as a roadie for The Damned and Motorhead, and then went on to manage the Brixton Academy. I believe he's still there. The Ruts had their roots in the Misty In Roots reggae collective, and though they did a lot of Oi stuff to begin with they started experimenting with reggae and developed into a really clever, tight punk band with a strong social conscience.

"I still listen to them, and their later incarnation following Malcolm Owen's death, Ruts DC. I chose Jah War for its punky roots dub style, its political message, and the fact that the two main characters in my fourth novel, Lladd Duw (Killing God), are from a background in the London squats where The Ruts and Misty played at parties, when the controversial sus laws (which The Ruts also sang about) were first introduced.

"A scene in the novel involves one of the main characters listening to Jah War while getting smashed in a caravan in north Wales. Also, my favourite English author, John King, uses a lot of Ruts references in his excellent social commentary novel, Human Punk (which is also a title of a Ruts song)."

System - One Style MDV

"In the early and mid-90s a friend of mine, Bryn Roberts, who has a community record label in Gwynedd, used to organise tours of north Wales for two reggae bands, End Of Culture and One Style (later, One Style MDV) from London. The gigs were really memorable as it was a sort of solidarity thing between two cultures that are struggling against injustice - the black people's communities and the Welsh speaking communities of Wales.

"This song is in the Welsh language, and Bryn Roberts himself sings the vocals. Over 15 years later, in 2010, I was writing Lladd Duw (Killing God) and for a number of relevant reasons I weaved this song into three or four chapters of the novel. I had lost my copy of the cassette, but I still remembered its catchy chorus and the message in the lyrics. One evening I finished writing a scene containing the song, and travelled to a gig in mid Wales where I was to perform some slam poetry.

"To my amazement, who was there at the event but Floyd, guitarist and shared vocalist with One Style! I hadn't seen him in 15 years, but now he was back in north Wales living with a local girl whom I had also known for years. I told him that I had just been writing about System in my novel, and we were buzzing about the coincidence.

"But it didn't end there. A few weeks later I was to do a preview reading at a literary festival fringe event in Caernarfon. The organiser emailed to ask if I wanted music played as I walked on stage. I told her I'd like System and explained that I'd lost the cassette and asked that if she found the track could she email it to me. When I listened to the track, a tagline from the verse lyrics jumped out at me. It was a line that I had forgotten, and it finished with the words 'Lladd duw' - the name of the very novel in which I'd used the song!"

Peatbog Faeries - Captain Coull's Parrot

"About four years ago, fellow author Catrin Dafydd and I took part in an S4C documentary in which we investigated our Celtic identity and traced our Celtic ancestry through genetics. During filming we attended the Celtic Festival of Wales at Porthcawl.

"A fairly alternative folk band from Scotland, Shooglenifty, were playing there. When I got home I searched Amazon for their stuff. During that search I found the Peatbog Faeries, who seemed from the reviews of their albums to be more up my street - dance/dub orientated instrumental folk. I bought the Faerie Stories album, and to this day I am still listening to it - and their other six albums - and have been to see them three times, twice in the highlands and isles of Scotland.

"The Peatbogs are one of the best live bands you'll ever see. The lead instruments are the bagpipes and two fiddles, with a full band - bass, lead guitar, drums, synthesiser effects, and also a brass section for some songs. The Peatbogs play their thumping, banging dance-powered pipes and fiddle numbers live, but their albums also contain some subtler tracks that fuse reggae and dub with wonderful traditional Celtic fiddlery! One of those tracks is Captain Coull's Parrot from the Faerie Stories album, which is simply sheer faerie magic!"

Hope you enjoyed the musical choices as much as I did last Thursday, and look out for more Desert Island Discs evenings organised by Literature Wales in the future.

Manic Street Preachers - This Is The Day: great or just plain lazy?

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:15 UK time, Monday, 19 September 2011

Could the release this weekend of the promo video for Manic Street Preachers' new single This Is The Day be a clue as to their plans?

Watch the video on YouTube.

The band have previously said they'll "disappear for a long time" but this video (for their cover of The The's 1983 song) seems like it's a goodbye. Never before have the Blackwood band celebrated their past in such a way.

They include some wonderful, evocative footage: from the very early 1990s to the present day, with plenty of shots of Richey. James looks cooler than cool in his Generation Terrorists garb, Nicky and Richey are shown camping it up and Sean's insouciant ambivalence at the 1997 Brit Awards is amusing.

This video reminds me of all the reasons I loved them in the first place: a British band whose combination of rockstar pretensions and alternative politics made them unique. They were simultaneously iconoclastic and reverential: they were enthusiastically paradoxical, sometimes demolishing the idea of the pop star, sometimes working with them.

There they are, frozen in time by celluloid, kohled-up and beautiful but there they are a few seconds later, fattened by encroaching middle-age but, it seems, having no less fun. The gap for Richey is brought into stark focus by this collage technique.

Mind you, different opinions are available. Manics biographer and music critic for The Independent Simon Price has an entirely different take: "It's incredibly lazy. Any fan could have cobbled that together with a couple of hours on Youtube and Windows Moviemaker.

"There are a few pieces of rare or unseen footage, and if they were gonna go down the montage route, they should have concentrated on that. Also, I have a phobia of videos featuring 'the guys' larking around backstage, pulling faces at the camera etc. It's such a rock cliché, like a Bon Jovi video or something.

I also hate the song and I've always thought Matt Johnson out of The The was one of the most pompous deluded bores of the soft-alternative 80s, the Steven Berkoff of pop. Apart from that, great work!"

Does, I ask Simon, mark an end for the band, a sign-off? "I think their recent public statements mark it as a (temporary) end for the band, not the video itself," he says.

"The video just marks it as one of those moments where they can't be arsed doing anything particularly interesting with it (see also Slash And Burn, Suicide Is Painless). Yes it has a nostalgic, valedictory feel, but so does approximately 50% of everything they've done since 1996, so I don't read too much into that."

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Warning: This programme contains contemporary music...

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 12:44 UK time, Friday, 16 September 2011

As everyone knows, the BBC has a long standing, continuing commitment to new talent, spanning the genres, encompassing writers, actors, presenters and, of course, musicians. In practical terms, this means BBC orchestras play a lot of contemporary music.

As I've mentioned before, there is a little part of me that enjoys getting to grips with the rhythmic complexities of modern music, but there are times when you're counting so much that you unwittingly end up looking like the dog from those insurance adverts in an effort to keep the pulse.

Of course, as a professor of mine once said "Laura, daaaaahling, your technical deficiencies are not the composer's problem" (composers - please do not take that as carte blanche to write nonsensical things). It is our job to find a way to play whatever is on the page in front of us and find a way of understanding the score (I find our associate guest conductor, François, a genius for this).

So, if this is how an overly-enthusiastic musician feels, where does that leave you, the audience member? In my humble opinion, it is like this. If no one had given James MacMillan a chance, we would never have had his stunning Seven Last Words From The Cross. If the Royal Opera House hadn't given Joby Talbot a chance, they would not have had the success of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.

If no one had given John Cage a chance, events like the recent Southbank Centre John Cage Night would never have occurred. If you choose not to attend a concert simply because there is a contemporary work in it, you genuinely could miss out on hearing a gem. People talk about how wonderful it would have been to be at the première performance of this work, or that work; we don't know how posterity will view music written today, so this is your chance to be at those performances.

Composers deserve the opportunity to experiment, to develop and nurture their craft in exactly the same way instrumentalists do. We owe it to the generations to come to keep pushing the limits of expression and creative spirit. If we don't, it continues to perpetrate the myth that classical music is a shrine to the days of yore.

Llangollen Eisteddfod appoints new music director

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:21 UK time, Thursday, 15 September 2011

Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod have announced the appointment of Eilir Owen Griffiths, the highly-successful conductor and composer, as their new Music Director.

Griffiths, 30, is to replace Mervyn Cousins, who left to take a senior post with the Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music.

Eilir Owen Griffiths

Eilir Owen Griffiths

A tutor and cultural organiser at University of Wales Trinity Saint David in Carmarthen, Griffiths is also a director for musical theatre productions and a singing teacher, as well as being artistic director of Gŵyl, the university's arts festival.

He is best known in Wales as the musical director of the choirs CF1 and Côr Godre'r Garth with whom he has attained considerable success in competitions and concerts. He conducts the university choir, and is also a highly-regarded composer, his most recent work being a requiem written to celebrate the creation of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. It received its première in June 2011 with Bryn Terfel and Wynne Evans performing together with Eilir's three choirs and the Chamber Orchestra of Wales.

Griffiths said: "I am very much looking forward to the challenge of maintaining and advancing the very high standards of the International Eisteddfod, and I am particularly anxious to increase the involvement of children in this great festival."

Eisteddfod chairman Phil Davies said: "We are all very excited at this new appointment of a young man who, while at the heart of the Welsh music scene, has a wide and international outlook which will equip him well for the task of taking the Llangollen Eisteddfod forward to even greater achievements."

H Hawkline - The Strange Uses of Ox Gall (Shape Records)

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Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 09:17 UK time, Thursday, 15 September 2011

H Hawkline is the brainchild of Huw Evans, formerly more familiar here in Wales as a music TV and radio presenter, a musician who came to our attention with soft folklike acoustic plucking, and a big tour with Gruff Rhys last Christmas.

His début outing, A Cup of Salt on Shape Records, is sold out now, but H Hawkline is back, with band, with a fuller sound, with a psychedelic array of songs.

H Hawkline

H Hawkline

Live, H Hawkline have become a very different beast from when Huw first set off on his own and its like the Martin Carthy figure has morphed into 'when Bob whent electric' era Bob Dylan: all scrawling feedback, raucous noise, and childish swagger in the dynamics between him and band members (including the ever present and prolific Sweet Baboo).

I kind of miss the delicate H Hawkline sets of old but the vigour of the new outfit has certainly gained them a few fans this year at events like the Green Man festival and so forth. The album too is gathering a few nods and shakes, with Kliph Scurlock of Flaming Lips even tweeting this week about having the album on repeat.

The Strange Uses of Ox Gall is certainly not what it seems, for the fanciful title and almost mediaeval leanings of the new folk elements in his music, there's also everything else thrown in too: childlike ditties, samples, melodies, charming harmonies and a brain chock full of musical ideas. For what it's worth, here's my track by track review.

The album opens with a sinister sound of a creaky swing, and the nostalgic title Cofio (Remember) and falls into the simple, short, charming and childlike Ballast singing about noses, eyes and ears.

Funny Bones, with additional vocals by Cate Le Bon, is a slow-burner, again the childlike themes come into play, and the sweet innocence of the words, of playing jigsaws, is just magical - the plinky plonky keys adding to this meandering atmosphere.

Mind How You Go is another lullaby with harmonica weaving its way through the song, and the soft lilting Welsh accent sounding staccato, pronounced and slightly strange. Mediaeval in the same way Circulus was!

Big Red is a sampling wonder - I have no idea what's happening, again the childlike rhymes are present - confusing but mercifully short.

In Surf Pound it is indeed the pounding guitar perfectly blended with waves of Huw's voice which sounds rich and beautifully leads the track by its nose!

Giât, another skit, sounds like Huw is entertaining some youngsters.

My Dreams has a free and easy hippy feel, as I listen I'm imagining the raucous singalong at a gig, or campfire at a fesitval near you. It could be one of those expanding set closers that goes in many weird and wonderful directions. Devendra Banhart would love to add this track to his canon!

Sea Of Sand's thick reverb drenched vocals dance around the song, with a subtle guitar playing far off in the distance. Holiday vibe!

Two Ghosts At Sea is a quirky and perky instrumentation backing a melody drenched in sorrow - the contrast is lovely, and it's pure jauntiness.

You Say You Love Me. If I was a record company, this would be the first single. The song has a natural rhythm and structure, and a fuller sound than some of the more experimental tracks - it's lovely. My favourite!

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Finally, the last track: It Takes A Lot Of Gall To Make Ink is another strange song. It's sample-heavy with mysterious ramblings over a drone. It finally gives way to another sweet instrumental between keys and acoustic guitar, a perfect end to an eclectic journey from H Hawkline. The strange sounds and atmospheres blend together on the album creating one perfectly lovely and wonderful listen, if slightly unsettling at times and yet mostly purely unadulterated joy in musical form.

64 Bar Music - an experiment in production

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James McLaren James McLaren | 08:03 UK time, Thursday, 15 September 2011

Last week an old friend got in touch with me. Pete Griffin was always a face on the dance scene around Cardiff and we ran into each other many times about a decade ago. He told me about a project that piqued my interest for its interesting genesis and sideways look at making music work for artists and consumers.

64 Bar Music is a free music project that now spans six albums of mixed music created by volunteer producers, all to 64 bar length, mixed by well-known DJs including, for the latest, DJ Food.

The 64 Bar Music project came about in 2009 when Griffin, also known as DJ Kovas, posted on the Ninja Tune forums and a group of friends came together to make mixes of their own music, all lasting 64 bars and to a specified tempo.

Pete explained the initial concept: "The original challenge was to see how many ways people could interpret a set tempo and a set length. Any style was acceptable, and we've touched on so many styles over the project.

"Everyone has given their time for free, and its a real example of how people can come together online and create something of value, just for the sake of being creative.

"It was never planned to do six albums, we just kept on making them as there seemed to be a will to do so by the people involved, I don't think that will has diminished but the forum is such a creative space, that other projects have been born and maybe it's best to focus on seeing them grow."

Since the launch of the first album, over 40 producers have taken part from all over the globe including France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Russia, Canada, USA, Australia, China and America.

The most recent mix, put together by DJ Food, comes in at 110 bpm, with 28 tracks fused in 52 minutes. You can listen to it and the other albums at 64 Bar Music's Mixcloud or on their blog.

Now, according to Pete, it's time to call it a day: "All good things come to an end and after 8,000 official plays and downloads it's finished."

Listen to him talk about the project and the sixth album:

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Well at least I've played Sibelius 2 before...

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 13:59 UK time, Tuesday, 13 September 2011

After the disappointing wash out of Proms in the Park at Caerphilly Castle, it is back into work for a week with our Principal Conductor Designate, Thomas Søndergård. This week we will perform six works in total and I have only prior experience of one of them. Aside from Sibelius 2, the works in the pad are all new to me.

I'm not from a particularly musical background. Although my parents have always been exceptionally supportive (except for the Frère Jacque incident of Halloween 1989) neither of them studied music. Neither is it the case that the area I am from is particularly well known for its classical music scene. When I visit home, it is understandable that my job piques people's interest and the thing I am most frequently asked is: "do you still practise?".

I think it is a common misconception that musicians turn up, ready made, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of all the masterworks etched into their being (I wish). You watch an orchestra, and everyone is sitting there in their smart concert clothes and it all (hopefully) looks so effortless. Without wanting to burst the bubble, it is often very effort-ful.

Although everyone approaches their practice differently, there can be no question that our job takes a great deal of continual maintenance of one's own playing, in addition to learning the repertoire for each programme. By the end of my first six months in the job I was exhausted. It felt like every programme we played was complete virgin territory to me. Me staggering out of the library under a mountain of practice parts was not an uncommon sight. There just seemed to be so much I didn't know and I was so anxious to prove that I had been a worthy choice for the position. It felt like every spare moment I had was spent learning dots.

I am fortunate to be in a section of wonderful, experienced musicians, and will be forever grateful for the advice they gave me in those first few months. There were countless times when I would be frantically tearing my way through something in a spare moment and a colleague would say "you probably don't really need to look at that bit, but the passage at Figure 32 is really exposed". As you gain in experience, you become so much better equipped to identify passages that genuinely need attention.

So, do I still practise? Of course I do. I love music and want to enjoy playing repertoire rather than feeling under par and struggling through it. This week I'm really looking forward to playing Debussy's La Mer. There is an excerpt from it that frequently comes up in viola auditions, so I'm looking forward to playing more than just those dozen bars! Being a musician isn't a sprint, you don't decide to be one and instantaneously have all the knowledge and skill you need. It really is a marathon.

You can catch the Orchestra and Thomas Søndergård in concert at St David's Hall on Friday 16 September, 7.30pm. Tickets are available by calling the Orchestra's Audience Line on 0800 052 1812, or St David's Hall on 02920 878444.

Donna Lewis reflects on 15 years since I Love You Always Forever

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:15 UK time, Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Fifteen years ago, in the summer of 1996, I was working my final stint of hard labour at an independent record shop before moving to Cardiff for university. Among the songs that soundtracked that summer was I Love You Always Forever by Donna Lewis. It seemed to be everywhere that year.

And it wasn't only in Britain: this was a song that really began its life in America, where the Cardiff singer had based herself and had got a record deal. It was the most-played record on American radio for 13 weeks that summer. That fact makes her unique among Welsh artists.

No-one else from this country has come close to achieving that kind of commercial success for a single song, and its parent album, Now In A Minute, went platinum in the US.

Watch a clip of Donna Lewis performing I Love You Always Forever on Top Of The Pops:

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I decided to ask Donna about her memories of that time, and what she's up to since. Here's what she had to say:

"It was seeing the rapid growth of the 'adds' at radio in America was when I first began to feel that I Love You Always Forever was becoming successful, then performing at radio shows where the whole audience knew every word of the song.

"I had to explain the title of my album, Now In A Minute, all the time. I thought it was a great title for my record and it was always a talking point.

"The promo work for the album and the single was madness. Flying into a different country most days, arriving at TV studios at 4am to sing live then off to radio interviews then flying off again. During the making of Now In A Minute we based ourselves in New York and because the album took off in America we spent very little time in the UK. It was difficult being away from my family but every time we flew in to the UK for promo we would all meet in the same hotel and grab a couple of days together.

"The craziest moment of 1996 was probably being asked to perform at a stadium show in Chicago and when arriving there, realising that I was the only non-R&B artist! I remember thinking ''what am I doing here?' The radio guys said 'most of the people have come to see you,' and as soon as we played the song the stadium went nuts!

"I Love You... just seemed to work on American mainstream radio at that time. I had tried to get a record in the UK and wasn't successful but I tried America and fortunately my dream came true. It's all down to the right place, right time and a little bit of luck.

"I do look back at that time with affection: it was my dream and an amazingly exciting time, and even though it was incredibly hard work I loved every minute!

"The airplay for that song has been good to me over the years. At that time, in 1996, I never paid much attention to the financial side; I was too busy doing what I love. But it definitely gave me the opportunity to do whatever musical projects I wanted to do.

"I didn't have any pressure from the record company, Atlantic, for the second album. Blue Planet was actually raved about by Atlantic, but there was a clichéd scenario at the label - the top execs left, which was ironic as I signed to them because of the longevity of Doug Morris and Jason Flom. Fifteen years they had held their positions, but they were replaced by people with different agendas. I wasn't on their radar. However, I did have a number one on the US Billboard dance charts with Love Him from that record. After that we decided it was in my best interest to leave the label.

"Following that, Be Still was my acoustic record for the fans, released solely through my website but In The Pink [released 10 years after Blue Planet] was the first commercial release. Of course, when it's your own label there's much less money spent on marketing: major labels have their marketing arms all over the world and working independently is very much a cottage industry by comparison. Even though you don't have that power behind you it's a good feeling to be in complete control of your own work.

"At the moment I'm working on a project with a small string section which I'm hoping will be part of the next record. Maybe we'll be able to bring the performance to the new auditorium at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama.

"I'd like to thank everyone in Wales for their support over the years. Even though I now live across the pond, I'm still very proud to be Welsh and my Welsh flag always flies here in New York!"

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Adam Walton playlist and show info: Sunday 11 September 2011

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 17:07 UK time, Monday, 12 September 2011

This week's show is now available via the iPlayer. Please visit the link any time between now and the start of the next programme.

I'll keep the banter to a minimum. Don't want to detract, you see, from the sounds.

Oh, and what sounds!

We have some new Future Of The Left. The amount of words in that statement is in inverse proportion to how excited I am about this. I've heard a handful of finished tracks from their forthcoming album (no title or release date announced yet) and they're great [understatement]. They're upright and bipedal compared to the phenomenal but, in comparison, primitive sounds of yore. The new line up has given the band more taut space, more scope for adventure, more sonic grist for Falco's mill. My keyboard is hyperventilating fevered words at the prospect of IT, whenever IT arrives.

In fact, I think the Future Of The Left track's ('Untitled', or possibly something to do with very friendly bears) excellence precipitated some kind of meltdown in CD player 2. Because CD player 2 then had a hissy fit and refused to play anything else for the remainder of the show. Which made for an interesting five minutes.

Elsewhere - you'll find debut plays for LannyBOOM!, Presk, Girl Muscle, Christine Cooper and Lleucu Sian. Do any of you know Lleucu? She's brilliant. But I know nothing about her (other than the fact that she's 18 and from Lampeter - more info, please).

Godfather of the Welsh underground, Alan Holmes, brings us some excellent (when it finally gets played) contemporary blues from Holyhead. Lara Catrin translates some Breichiau Hir. Ben 'Soundhog' Hayes gets bubblegum in our ears - it's up, pop, pink and sticky, courtesy of Ohio Express.

Many crimes were committed to hyperbole during the cause of making this programme but I feel - strongly - that they were all justified. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

Please bung new releases/demos/party bags as mp3s or a download link to themysterytour@gmail.com, or via our excellent postal service:

BBC Wales
Canolfan y Diwydiannau Creadigol / The Centre for the Creative Industries
Prifysgol Glyndŵr / Glyndŵr University
Wrecsam / Wrexham
LL11 2AW

Have an excellent week. Thanks for reading/listening/being interested.

Adam

JOHN CALE - 'Big Apple Express ( Excerpt )'
Garnant

TARA BUSCH - 'Rocket Wife'
Cardiff

DILEU - 'Drygioni ( S F A Cover )'
Bangor

LANNYBOOM! - 'Fat Girls Who Take Photos Of Their Faces'
Newport

PRESK - 'Devour'
Eindhoven / Swansea

MEKONS, THE - 'Space In Your Face'
Croesyceiliog

JOANNA GRUESOME - 'Lemonade Grrl'
Cardiff

LOS CAMPESINOS - 'By Your Hand'
Cardiff

COLORAMA - 'Candy Street'
Benllech

LEFT BANKE, THE - 'Desiree'
New York

MAX SIX - '4 Hours'
Cardiff

FALL, THE - 'Futures And Pasts'
Prestwich

FUTURE OF THE LEFT - 'Untitled'
Cardiff

WIRE - 'Map Ref 41 Degrees N 93 Degrees W'
London

TAUCHSIEDER - 'Herd The Shadows'
Ruthin

CARAMELOU - 'J'adore Electronique'
Newport

CRACK FOX - 'Walking Stick'
Swansea

RATCATCHER - 'Bubbledub'
Cardiff

THREATMANTICS - 'Dumpamundo'
Cardiff

ALAN HOLMES - 'Spoken Contribution'
Bangor

HOLY MOUNTAIN BOOGIE MEN, THE - 'Crying Wolf'
Bangor

BIG STAR - 'Thirteen'
Memphis

H. HAWKLINE - 'Mind How You Go'
Cardiff

KUTOSIS - 'Shadows ( Single )'
Cardiff

CATHERINE A D - 'Waiting To Breathe'
Merthyr Tydfil

GIRL MUSCLE - 'Heartbreak For Breakfast'
Newport

MC MABON - 'Volcanoes'
Caernarfon

ZONDERHOOF - 'Hogslayer'
Swansea

HEAVY PETTING ZOO - 'Night Train'
Swansea

FALCON LAKE - 'Gold Cult'
Newport / Cardiff

AMONG BROTHERS - 'Loved'
Cardiff / Aberdare

VVOLVES - 'She ( E P Version )'
Monmouth / Cardiff

CHRISTINE COOPER - 'The Cruel Mother'
Brighton

GIRLS - 'Honey Bunny'
San Francisco ( Welsh Management )

LITTLE ARROW - 'Boat'
Cardiff

LLEUCU SIAN - 'Cer O Ngolwg I'
Lampeter

LARA CATRIN - 'Spoken Contribution'
Bangor / Cardiff

BREICHIAU HIR - 'Geni Eto'
Cardiff

SLEEPY PANDA CLUB - 'Ghost In The Mirrorr'
Swansea

BEN HAYES - 'Spoken Contribution'
Ruthin

OHIO EXPRESS - 'Try It'
Ohio, Usa

LOWLAND HUNDRED, THE - 'Salt Water Bathing'
Aberystwyth

Adam Walton playlist and show info: Sunday 4 September 2011

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 15:29 UK time, Monday, 12 September 2011

Due to a combination of server error (mine) and annual leave (the keepers of the blog), this playlist didn't manage to make it to this blog while the iPlayer link was still available for people to listen again. Apologies - normal service resumes this week.

The server error (now fixed, thanks for asking) meant that this beautifully constructed piece of spam, that was supposed to have been spat out automatically last Monday morning, appears to have got stuck in the system. Something to do with my CRON job. I have it when a CRON job goes wrong.

So, without further ado - and with due apologies - here's the info relating to last week's show. I shan't take up any more of your time - suffice to say that the playlist was full of ace.

And my voice sounds rougher than a chameleon's tongue.

Adam

HALFLIGHT - 'The Hope'
Welshpool

MYKES - 'Lines You Walk'
Swansea

TYSTION - 'Ishe Gwybod Mwy'
Carmarthen

PUBLIC ENEMY - 'Rebel Without A Pause'
New York

COLORAMA - 'Autumnal'
Benllech

Y NIWL - 'Chwech'
Gwynedd

MANIC STREET PREACHERS - '( It's Not War ) Just The End Of Love'
Blackwood

AL LEWIS - 'Make A Little Room'
Abersoch

LLEUWEN - 'War Varc'h Da'r Mor'
Bangor

GRUFF RHYS - 'Patterns Of Power'
Bethesda

SWEET BABOO - 'Who Would Have Thought?'
Bangor / Cardiff

STAGGA - 'The Chillski'
Cardiff

FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND - 'Spinning Over The Island'
Cardiff

BLACKOUT, THE - 'The Storm'
Merthyr Tydfil

JOY FORMIDABLE, THE - 'The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade'
Mold

GENTLE GOOD, THE - 'Aubade'
Cardiff

APPLE - 'The Other Side ( Single Mix )'
Cardiff

CREISION HUD - 'Ifanc'
Caernarfon / Cardiff

Y NIWL - 'Un Deg Saith'
Gwynedd

MORFFE - 'Mia Non Colpa'
Colwyn Bay

HORSES - 'Be Alright'
Sheffield

CUSS WORDS, THE - 'The Girl With The Pregnant Thighs'
Kent

VIOLAS - 'Lieutenant Trung'
Cardiff

JEWELLERS - 'Tape'
Newport

LOWLAND HUNDRED, THE - 'The Hushing'
Aberystwyth

JUMPING BACK SLASH - 'Kwaai Sneakers ( Erick Rincon Remix )'
Ikapa / Wrexham

TRWBADOR - 'Lluniau ( Sesiwn Huw Stephens C2 )'
Camarthen / Cardiff

THEM LOVELY BOYS - 'Plinciploncs'
Cardiff

DATBLYGU - 'Y Teimlad'
Cardigan

FFA COFFI PAWB - 'Breichiau Hir'
Bethesda

GRUFF RHYS - 'Gwn Mi Wn'
Bethesda

JAY ROBINSON - 'Get Mad Now'
Colwyn Bay

WIBIDI - 'Some People'
Cardiff

IFAN DAFYDD - 'Miranda'
Llanrug

MAFFIA MR HUWS - 'Ffrindia'
Bethesda

SHY AND THE FIGHT - 'Prayer For The Faithless'
Chester / Llangollen

LINDA RONSTADT - '( She's A Very ) Lovely Woman'
Tucson

ORGAN GRINDER - 'Black Microdot'
Cardiff

HARRY NILSSON - 'Little Cowboy'
New York

TJ's 'unlikely' to be retained as music venue after auction

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:39 UK time, Thursday, 8 September 2011

According to the auctioneer conducting the sale of legendary Newport venue TJ's, it is 'unlikely' to be used as a music venue in the future.

Paul Fosh auctions will be selling TJ's on 15 September at Cardiff's Park Inn Hotel. It is being sold following the death of its owner John Sicolo in 2010. Mr Fosh told BBC Wales News:

"There's little doubt TJ's was an iconic and well-known rock venue, attracting some major bands especially in the 90s.

"It would be great, romantic even, for someone to buy the building and for it to continue its use as a rock venue, but that sadly seems unlikely to be the case.

"I have had a great deal of interest in the property, especially from local people looking to redevelop the property [as residential or retail]."

TJ's was one of the UK's major indie/rock venues in the 1990s, with an amazing range of artists passing through. Some of the major ones included: Arab Strap, Babes In Toyland, Bikini Kill, The Bluetones, Buzzcocks, Catatonia, Chumbawamba, Cornershop, The Cranberries, Echo And The Bunnymen, Elastica, Fugazi, Girls Against Boys, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Green Day, Hole, Huggy Bear, Jesus Lizard, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, The Lemonheads, Manic Street Preachers, Mansun, Mercury Rev, Mogwai, My Bloody Valentine, My Life Story, Nation Of Ulysses, New Model Army, NOFX, Oasis, The Offspring, Pop Will Eat Itself, Primal Scream, Rancid, Rocket From The Crypt, The Selecter, Shed Seven, Shellac, Skunk Anansie, Supergrass, Therapy?, Urge Overkill (with St Etienne DJing) and The Wedding Present.

The guide price for the property is £175,000.

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Jean Jacques Smoothie's 2People

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James McLaren James McLaren | 08:11 UK time, Thursday, 8 September 2011

In all the 9/11 coverage this week, a decade on from the New York, Washington and Pennsylvania attacks, one thing has struck me.

Ten years ago Steve Robson, aka Jean Jacques Smoothie, a Cardiff producer, DJ and part of the Plastic Raygun label was releasing 2People, an atmospheric house monster that the Echo label had licensed.

Jean Jacques Smoothie

Jean Jacques Smoothie

It would have been a chart hit in its own right, courtesy of the smooth, seductive vocals of the Minnie Riperton sample and Steve's production, but 9/11 elevated the track into something no-one could have anticipated.

Disasters of sufficient magnitude force producers and editors of music radio to rethink their playlist. It is judged that some tracks are simply inappropriate, and they cast about for tracks suitable to plug that gap. 2People was one of those tracks that Radio 1, Radio 2 and commercial radio turned to.

For six weeks 2People was the most-played track on UK radio.

I caught up with Steve as he's about to release a new version of the track: "It was an amazing time, almost like a dream. When Radio 1 A listed 2People suddenly I was hearing it everywhere. I was in a green grocers on Albany Road in Cardiff when it came on the radio. I was rooted to the spot, my heart pounding. I looked around, expecting all the other shoppers to stop what they were doing and say 'hey, what's this amazing song?' Of course they didn't, they didn't care less but I enjoyed the moment anyway.

"2People definitely caught a mood. 9/11 had just happened and people wanted to feel good. It was an antidote to the horrors that were happening all around. It was at this moment, with all the extra airplay that I knew we'd made the right choice in licensing to a big label. Plastic Raygun would never have been able to cope but Echo had the infrastructure and network to make it a success."

Now Steve is releasing a new version of 2People, this time with the vocals of Cardiff-based American vocalist Tara Busch, who's part of Plastic Raygun staples Dynamo Dresden.

"I'm really happy to see it being re-released on Bargrooves/Defected. This new version is a real collaboration between Plastic Raygun friends. Tara Busch from Dynamo Dresden has laid down a new vocal which I think captures the emotion and feeling of the Minnie Ripperton's original. Sam Vandal's Simpleton Remix kick started the whole return journey.

"Sam and I have been working together on some new Smoothie tunes so keep a watch out. I feel like the Alan Partridge of pop: bouncing back!"

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Hello... Goodbye

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 07:41 UK time, Thursday, 8 September 2011

As a musician, you get used to a lot of comings and goings. It can be a very fluid lifestyle and the nature of the industry means that people can move around a bit more than is the case in many other professions.

I think that is one of the real negatives to our job. It can often feel like you are only just starting to put down roots before you have to up and leave again. This is now officially the longest time I've been in one place since I stepped off the plane from Ireland, all wide-eyed, innocent, and frankly, petrified, ready to start music college. Working at such close quarters with your colleagues - there can be times when it feels like they are the people you see the most - there can be a great deal of camaraderie within the ranks and moving on can be very difficult, even if you are excited about what the next chapter holds.

This has been a week of goodbyes - but also of hellos. With our final London prom, we said goodbye to Acting Principal Bassoon, Amy Harman. Her dedication to all things pink and sparkly, to Girls Aloud, and to great hair will be hugely missed. We do however look forward to the return of our Principal Bassoon, Jarek Augustyniak, who also has great hair.

Over the last month, we've had lots of new faces in the Orchestra (you can read short interviews with our three latest recruits, Darren, Eilidh and Amy, on the Orchestra's website) and this week we also have a newbie in the viola section! Martin Schaefer joins us as Viola No. 3, and his first concert will be as part of the Vale of Glamorgan Festival. If you see him after a concert, do give him a hearty welcome. He's difficult to miss - he's quite tall and a very lovely chap.

The first part of this week is dedicated to the Vale of Glamorgan festival, a celebration of contemporary music. This gives both us and our audiences a chance to say another hello, this time to our new Resident Composer, Mark Bowden. In our concert, we will be premiering his new work 'Lyra' for Cello and Orchestra.

On Saturday evening we will say a final farewell to summer (if it hasn't gone already) with our Prom in the Park (at the Castle). Held at Caerphilly Castle this year (don't our players look pretty in the photograph for it - check out the Proms in the Park website), the theme is 'Magic and Wizardry', although I've been told I am not allowed to dress up as Bellatrix LeStrange (a touch unfair if you ask me, especially as we're playing music from Harry Potter). Fingers crossed for good weather. Regardless of the weather, I'm sure the community singing at the end will be hearty. I'll let you know next week how many layers of black I am wearing by the end of the evening!

Summer round up: A month of festivals, part two

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Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 10:34 UK time, Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Sometimes I find myself asking how on earth my life has managed to be so involved and intertwined with so many festivals each summer. When the proliferation and popularity of live events and festivals in particular has seen the calendar stretch from January to December, I seem to have joined the opinion of a few festival weary punters, feeling like its time for a change of musical scenery, there are other ways to get your musical kicks! Yet still, work, or certain names on the line up, or a gathering of excitable friends, will drag me to the middle of the shenanigans again and again despite myself.

In winter there are city festivals, in the summer, we want to camp out in soggy fields. However, on the plus side, we do have some of the best festivals in the world. Having been to a few from South By South West to All Tomorrow's Parties Australia, I can vouch for the fact that UK festivals are held in some of the most stunning locations. The concrete jungles of Oz's Big Day Out and Barcelona's Primavera festival are no match for the stages nestled amongst the hills of mid Wales. Which brings me to...

Green Man Festival

Green Man site

Green Man site

Glanusk Estate in Crickhowell is always the most welcoming sight at the Green Man festival. The main stage is overshadowed by the hills in the background, and the whole site is a fair climb if you want to travel from stage to stage. Despite showers, and bouts of sun, it's smiles all round at the festival this year, as the ground is solid beneath our feet and the activities can commence without a boat to take you around. I'm straight in with a day packed full of radio interviews on the Friday, the highlight of which was meeting Howard Marks!

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Early evening I join the ranks of Green Man FM, and was joined in the portable cabin by Admiral Fallow playing a stunning acoustic session, just guitar, voice and clarinet, and Ellen And The Escapades - this time four of them squeeze into the cabin, and sound so divine.

It's late by the time radio duties are done, but I manage to catch some headline sets by Explosions In The Sky and Holy F**k.

Saturday begin with a dazzling array of live radio sessions by some of the Welsh acts at the festival, including Tender Prey, Sion Russell Jones, Martin Carr, Chailo Sim and others, and I am completely spell-bound by Hannah Peel who plays a stunning session with her custom-made music box.

Saturday afternoon I am making up for lost time by jumping around stages seeing a bit of Yoke, H Hawkline, some brilliant comedy, and the wonderful Fleet Foxes headlining on the Saturday night. I can't think of a better headliner for the event.

Reading Festival

Bethan and The Vinyl Vendettas at Reading festival

Bethan and The Vinyl Vendettas at Reading festival

Righto, where do I start at the biggest festival in my working calendar? It's the 11th year for me to host the Radio One/NME stage at Reading, the second stage of the festival and the biggest tent in the world! It's always a rush of bands, a flurry of activity, a weekend of long hours, and a general whirlwind of excitement.

The highlights in brief this year are the hilarious and ridiculous rider demands of the last minute pull outs Janes Addiction, the swagger of Liam Gallagher playing with Beady Eye, the closing DJ set from 2 Many DJs and The Streets, charm personified, and with a jumping set which might or might not be one of his last UK appearances. My personal highlight is F**ked Up's singer Damon's crowd antics, and massive Circle Pit. Totally engaging. Yuck, Warpaint, Death From Above, there are loads of great bands once again, and loads of great cake backstage - win win!

Merthyr Rock

Last but not least, I close the Radio Wales summer road show activities by hosting a live show from the ground of Merthyr Rock, in Cyfarthfa Park, at the foot of Cyfarthfa Castle - a stage which is soon nicknamed the acoustic stage, to our delight!

The energy at Merthyr Rock is fantastic, the atmosphere totally exciting. I walk in to the sounds of Cuba Cuba on the second open air stage echoing very loudly around the arena. I catch Town and Tiger Please on the main stage and Broken Vinyl Club back on Stage 2. It's a seamless flow of excellent bands, with a great crowd engaged and having fun.

We start our broadcast at 5.30pm and finish at 8pm, with a flood of acoustic acts playing and a fun pop quiz between Goldie Lookin' Chain and hometown heroes The Blackout.

Here's a video from the BBC Radio Wales activities of the band whose name was on everyone's lips that weekend - The Blackout:

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And so ends another summer with a new Welsh festival finding its stride and finding a keen international crowd up for the occasion. Just Cardiff's Sŵn festival to go in October and I'll be able to retire from festival activity for another year! Time to hang up those wellies...

Summer round up: A month of festivals, part one

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Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 08:12 UK time, Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Like a shiny, wet oasis at the end of a desert trek, I've had a few days off this week to recover after a pretty mental month. Every single day of the month was crammed with activities (fun activities admittedly) but there's only so much outdoor fun you can have before you catch a horrible cold. So while I'm sniffing, and sleeping, reading, and swimming, and generally feeling brilliant - thought I'd try and look back over the highlights of the summer's events from my corner.

Eisteddfod 2011: Wednesday and Thursday at Maes B

Yr Ods

Yr Ods

I found myself in the first week of August DJing for the legend that is Meic Stevens, back from Canada for a flurry of gigs, and an artist I've admired for a long while, Lleuwen, back from now her settled home of Brittany.

Opening the night was new artist Gildas, who made a name for himself on the Welsh scene as part of Al Lewis' band, before heading out solo. The evening gathered a nice momentum: a small but appreciative crowd for Gildas, then a warmer reception for the wild prog folk of Lleuwen, and by Meic, the young crowd were totally jumping. After about 45 minutes of a thrash through his hits, Meic was in fine form, the audience of few hundred crowding around the stage - then disaster, the guitar broke, and it was an early end to what had been a brilliant gig up to that point. Mind you there's always a bit of drama when Meic's involved.

The next night, I was in the larger room, on Glyndŵr's University's campus, with Yr Ods, Y Bandana, Creision Hud, and Y Trydan. I'd seen two of the bands before, but in small venues, this huge hall on campus was enormous. Must have been a few thousand capacity. The whole night was a young, fresh, vibrant line up. All playing totally unique songs and competently playing to a standard well beyond their years. Y Trydan are very new to be fair but had a massive group of fans, then Creision Hud and each band after them had a magic response - singalongs, crowdsurfing, and a totally hyper crowd going nuts.

I try and get to part of the Eisteddfod each year. It's such a good thing to be part of - seeing the Welsh language music scene for one week each year, being properly celebrated by kids from all over Wales. 1500 young people were there that Wednesday night for the Eisteddfod gigs, and many many more by the weekend. They know the songs, appreciate the music, and feel this is their generation and their culture. At their age, I was lucky enough to see Gorkys, SFA, and Catatonia and many others - that was my time to jump about like a nutter. Celebrating this country's unique language through music is a precious thing and a vital part of the Eisteddod's work.

The Big Chill Festival, Malvern

Kanye West at Big Chill. Photo: Marc Sethi

Kanye West at Big Chill. Photo: Marc Sethi

So the big massive surprise for The Big Chill this year was securing one of the biggest names in hip hop - Kanye West - for the festival. It was everyone's lips all weekend, and the crowd numbers definitely swelled for his grand entrance on Saturday night. He started his set singing from the 'front of house' sound tower, and then all sorts of dramatics followed, from a 50 strong ballet troupe, to white lino carpeting every inch of the stage. It was dramatic and Kanye played a two part set of all his hits.

Aside from the big dawg, and his 150 people posse, and his helicopter on site, and his late arrival on stage etcetera, there were also plenty of amazing acts throughout the weekend to continuously wow. From Janelle Monet to Femi Kuti, to a surprise appearance from Idris Elba and Lucy Liu when The Bullits took to the stage. One of the highlights for me were the Chemical Brothers on the Friday night, taking their dance and visual carnage into the night.

The Big Chill is just that: a beautiful, spacious, eclectic bill, with a great atmosphere and like Green Man and Latitude, just perfect place to sit back and lazily watch the days dream by. One of the summer highlights once again.

Gruff Rhys / Y Niwl / Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog - Pesda Roc, Thursday 1 September 2011

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 13:43 UK time, Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Bethesda has some otherworldly quality to it. Any place that kneels in front of Snowdonia's most awe-inspiring vistas is bound to reflect and amplify those wonders somehow. Stood just back from the main street as I drive through are a series of most impressive chapels, or tabernacles. I'm ashamed I don't know exactly which. They're places of worship. And even though I have an atheist heart, little fills me with a sense of the miracle of our existence more than spectacular, breath-stealing landscapes and architectures built to move us closer to God.

Bethesda has both. It sets me along a line of spurious thinking. "No wonder so many great, instinctive and original musical minds come from this area..."

I'm thinking particularly of Gruff Rhys. Original minds, within the rock and roll canon, are rarer than they should be. Rock'n'roll's journey from a rural, to an urban, and - in this instance - back to a rural landscape is a fascinating one, I think.

And I wonder how much Gruff's childhood amongst these streets and houses carved from the slate of the mountains, where every storm and sunbeam is magnified by the slopes around, helped shape his unique vision. Super Furries' notable peers from back in the day either locked themselves in bedrooms mainlining on Public Enemy, Guns N' Roses and Sylvia Plath (the Manics); broiled with the working class, last gang desperate to ride out of this one horse town mentality of 60ft Dolls or Stereophonics; or filtered a similar (to the Furries) less-knowing, more playful and unbounded sense of infinite possibilities (Catatonia and Gorky's).

As the outsider coming in, seeing the sun burst through Mordor clouds onto the Carneddau, hemmed in by reverent slate palaces and with so many pubs on one side of the road than I'm sure it's an optical illusion, I think I can see one of the reasons why Gruff is synonymous with music that doesn't sound like anyone else. But I imagine if I foisted this particular theory on him there would be a pause that'd last a geological epoch, and an eventual 'maybe' in response.

Because, and I know you know this, what separates the truly great from the moribund is instinct. The ability to do without too much thought getting in the way. Some people call it a state of grace. That Bethesda means 'House of Grace' in Hebrew just gives me more grist for an already over-worked mill.

I'm here for Pesda Roc. Pesda Roc is the revival of a festival originally inaugurated in the mid 80's by local music fans like Gwynfor Dafydd. The likes of Maffia Mr Huws, Yr Anhrefn and Meic Stevens played. Gruff may well have been in the audience, being inspired by what he witnessed.

Since the last of those initial Pesda Rocs in 1986, the event has been resurrected on a couple of occasions, notably in 2003 when Super Furry Animals played. It has been reinstated this year for a much sadder reason. Pesda Roc 2011 is 'er cof am Les' (in memory of Les).

Les Morrison co-founded a studio in the town in the 80's that became a creative hub and a place of practical inspiration for a welter of significant Welsh bands: Celt, Maffia Mr Huws, Bryn Fôn, Jecsyn Ffeif, Y Cyrff, Ffa Coffi Pawb, Super Furries, Catatonia, The Peth and others beside. I'm told that he would frequently engineer and record nascent, skint bands for free, giving opportunities for valuable recording experience to those who would have struggled to get it otherwise. That kind of far-sighted benevolence is rare. He was also a songwriter and a musician in his own right, and he became Super Furry Animals' guitar tech - travelling the world with them.

Les passed away in April and this year's Pesda Roc was founded because he'd wanted to see another of the festivals in the town, and because it would give the vast musical community who had been touched by his friendship, talent and kindness an opportunity to celebrate his memory.

So, a bewildering array of Welsh talent, past and present, crowd various pubs, halls and clubs in Bethesda for five evenings. I drive into the town late on the Thursday. I'm here to see Gruff Rhys, Y Niwl and Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog. I've never seen Gruff live before, despite the fact that his songs (whether with Ffa Coffi Pawb, Super Furry Animals or his solo albums) are the alphabet of Welsh music, at least as far as I'm concerned.

I can trace Gruff's songs backwards to learn about what went before (he plays songs by Datblygu, Ffa Coffi Pawb and Caryl Parry Jones tonight), and his own songs shine like a runway into the future, they will endure timelessly as an inspiration to others. So Gruff, to me, is a link between the past and the future. He's the key Welsh artist of our times. I have cried, laughed, danced and been amazed by his visions more than anyone else's. I can't tell you how excited I feel about the prospect of being in the same room as his 'Til I Die voice and quixotic guitar for the very first time. I'm ashamed that it's the first time. It's inexplicable to me. I've lied to cover it up, such is my embarrassment. And I'm not one for lies. Not often, anyway.

My gig-going friend, Andy, and I arrive at the Neuadd Ogwen just in time to catch Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog. What I'm struck by first is the hall itself. A beautiful old theatre cum cinema cum whatever else has been required from it over the years in this community. The orange plastic chairs are inexplicable. But they're also filled with a diverse swathe of the local communities' bottoms. Gigs aren't just for young folk, or people-who-should-grow-old-more-gracefully folk. Gigs here are for folk.

In a very real sense, without the genre tropes and tics, this is folk music. It's heart-warming. But it doesn't take too much to warm my heart, especially after a Guinness. Even the sight of a nice smelling punk (Neil Crud) has me dewy-eyed. Takes us a while to fathom that it's his infinitely more aesthetically pleasing partner who smells so fragrantly, but the illusion is an amusing one, however fleeting.

Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog

Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog

Cowbois are on stage. It's a big broad stage with lovely curtains and a bold 'Pesda Roc' backdrop seemingly carved from coal or cardboard, hard to tell at this distance. I've never seen Cowbois before, either. But reports of their set being the best at the Wrexham Eisteddfod and rumours of a revelatory main stage appearance at the recent Green Man festival have whetted my appetite.

Disappointing, then, that I have to strain hard to hear them. All the bums on the orange plastic seats are attached to people glorying loudly in each other's company. They're not being rude in ignoring the music. The music is, perhaps, a little too gentle, lilting and melancholic for the moment. But like when you're a kid being driven to the beach, straining for the first proper sight of the sea, some great sparkle of guitar or flash of vocal dexterity breaches the chatter and lifts the heart. And as those moments become more frequent, the audience quietens, drawn - without any fuss or bother - into Cowbois' world. And the set gathers volume and momentum as each moment passes. What started off a little like Neil Young's Harvest becomes Rust Never Sleeps, dragged along by crazy horse squeals of madly brilliant guitar.

Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog knew exactly what they were doing. It was the best paced set I've heard in aeons. They're something special. Something transcendent. Something that lifts my soul up into the night sky, amongst the stars, gazing down at the twinkling lights and echoing sounds of Bethesda...

And then someone is sick all over me at the bar.

Andy gets the worst of it and has to buy (another) Y Niwl t-shirt so that he can change into something that isn't covered in regurgitated lager and crisps. I wash myself in their sink. But in all the fuss and cleaning and de-odorising and bother, I miss the first half of Y Niwl's set. Smelling like a real punk I manage to catch the flashing blades of their finale. Y Niwl sound fiercer than I've heard them before. Whatever energy is firing them zaps up through the audience's feet too. The kids are twisting and jiving. Everyone is happy. Even the puke-covered.

Gruff Rhys

Gruff Rhys

And so to Gruff. I shan't go on. Well, I've already gone on a bit. His set and his demeanour is a great tribute to his lost friend. Gruff tells us warm anecdotes about Les fashioning the odd plastic and Velcro appendage to his acoustic guitar (he didn't like the cutaway, as far as I could discern - but my Welsh is basic/intermediate, please correct me if I misunderstood.) Gruff also stresses Les' ability to bring people together, how he was no respecter of the boundaries and barriers that are frequently put between people. On one occasion, Super Furry Animals were walking down a labrynthine corridor at the BBC, preparing for an appearance on Top of the Pops. They walked past a door labelled 'Carlos Santana'. What? The Carlos Santana? One of the most legendary guitar players of all time? A man who played Woodstock, for crying out loud! You'd think that a bunch of wet-nosed oiks from Wales'd shuffle past the dressing room quietly, in nervous awe.

Not Les.

He knocked on the door: "Alright Carlos? I'm Les."

And so the band spent the afternoon hanging out with Carlos Santana.

That ability to make friends wherever he went must have been a godsend when the band were touring far flung parts of the world. Lots of bands hermetically seal themselves off when they're on tour. But I'd imagine - and I am extrapolating here, I hope with some accuracy - that Les helped Super Furry Animals plug themselves into the communities and cultures they visited more readily than if he hadn't been there. He must have been a great man to have around.

Which is the right note on which to end this. Gruff was sublime and more wonderful than I could convey in another 1750 words. But Pesda Roc was about Les, the musicians he worked with, the community many of them came from, and the elemental place that provided the perfect conditions for their chemistry. Sad, uplifting and most wonderful.

Next time I'm bringing a packed lunch...

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 09:28 UK time, Tuesday, 6 September 2011

After annual leave, we were straight back into the studio, preparing an eclectic programme for our final Prom of 2011, with our principal guest conductor Jac van Steen. Comprising two concertos, book ended by a rousing Elgar overture and Kodály's rather exotic Háry János Suite, it was a really fun programme to play and so, a nice way to start back to work.

On Saturday 3 September, we drove to London for an afternoon rehearsal at the Royal Albert Hall. I knew the Prom had sold out, but was amazed by the queues of people waiting for tickets when we emerged from our rehearsal. There's always such a wide range of people queuing for tickets - it is wonderful to see so many people, from so many walks of life, coming to such an amazing festival of music.

Now, in between rehearsal and concert, I like to have something small but filling to eat and then a little bit of time to just sit down, but on Saturday, everything seemed to go wrong.

For convenience (and the perfectly-sized portion of bangers and mash) we planned to eat in the restaurant at the Hall, but it was so full and we didn't have enough time to wait. The next place we tried wasn't serving yet. Cursing myself for not having bought something at Reading services, I finally got a substandard sandwich and toddled back to the hall in a huff to change and warm up.

We opened with Elgar's rollicking 'Cockaigne' Overture. Devoid of a viola solo, it's no 'In The South', but still a fun play.

It was then on to the first concerto. Composed by our former Composer-in-Association, Michael Berkeley, the Concerto for Organ and Orchestra (soloist David Goode) was an opportunity to hear the Royal Albert Hall's organ played full throttle. It has 9997 speaking pipes! I liked the bit at the end when the off stage trumpets played their independent, meandering melodies - in the space of the Albert Hall, it was really effective.

After the interval (and a chance to cool off - was anyone else abnormally sweaty in the hall on Saturday night?), it was Rachmaninov's perennially popular Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. This is one of those works where it can be said that, at times, familiarity breeds contempt, however, Marc-André Hamelin's interpretation was gorgeous, with spice and pace in the fast variations, but tender and poignant, without ever being self indulgent, in the slower variations.

Until last season, I had never heard Kodály's Háry János Suite, but I think it's a fabulous work and it has a viola solo (scrumptiously played by Jorg Winkler). Even better, it has a cimbalom solo! Cimbalom duties were performed by Ed Cervenka and I'm hoping next time we perform this work, he'll let me have a go on the cimbalom. Fingers crossed.

So that's it from us this year! Goodbye Proms 2011 - see you in 2012!

Merthyr Rock 2011

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:58 UK time, Monday, 5 September 2011

This has to happen again. Yes, it rained, but this was one of the best festivals I've ever been to. Merthyr Rock 2011, well, rocked.

Merthyr Rock site

Merthyr Rock site

I'm not going to review it - there are other places to go for that - but suffice to say this was the best collection of Welsh acts that has ever been put together. I went on the Sunday and The Blackout, Funeral For A Friend, Skindred, Attack! Attack!, Future Of The Left, The Guns, Revoker, Exit_International, Save Your Breath, The Dead Beggars Club and Crossbreaker were all great. Skindred really showed the younguns how it's done, while Crossbreaker blew me away with their old-school hardcore.

One of the highlights were the wonderful sleaze rock of Jettblack, while FOTL were, as ever, top notch. Exit_International's Scott Andrews lost a tooth and The Blackout rose to the occasion as hometown heroes.

This was something special, and that it happened in Merthyr Tydfil surely shows that there is a demand and a market for well-run rock/indie festivals in this perennially under-served area.

We'd love to hear what you thought of it, and you can comment below, but in the meantime, check out these links:

You can also Listen to Jen Long's highlights of the weekend on her Radio 1 show.

And for more reviews and whatnot, here are some great resources:

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.

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Welsh Music Prize nominees announced

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:30 UK time, Friday, 2 September 2011

The 12 albums shortlisted for the inaugural Welsh Music Prize (WMP) have been announced today. WMP is the brainchild of Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens. Here are the nominees:

Al Lewis - In The Wake

Al Lewis - In The Wake

Al's self-released album was released in January 2011. It charted in Amazon's top 10 folk albums on its release. BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music have been supportive of the release.

Hope

The Blackout - Hope

Fan-funded through the Pledge scheme, the Merthyr band's third album campaign saw them support My Chemical Romance and continue their rise through rock's ranks in the UK and Europe.

Hope was released in April 2011 by Cooking Vinyl.

Colorama - Box

Colorama - Box

Released last October on See Monkey Do Monkey, Box brought Colorama to the attention of clued-up indie fans.

Colorama, aka Carwyn Ellis, has been a favourite with Bethan Elfyn.

Funeral For a Friend - Welcome Home Armageddon

Funeral For A Friend - Welcome Home Armageddon

Welcome Home Armageddon was Funeral For A Friend's fifth album, their first to be self-recorded and licensed to a label, and a return to the passionate rock fans remembered from their early days. It was released in March 2011.

The Gentle Good - Tethered For The Storm

The Gentle Good - Tethered For The Storm

Gareth Bonello has been recording as The Gentle Good since 2005. His second album was released in March 2011 through Gwymon.

Bonello has made himself a regular on the European folk/traditional festival circuit.

Gruff Rhys - Hotel Shampoo

Gruff Rhys - Hotel Shampoo

Taking its starting point his enormous collection of hotel shampoo bottles, Gruff Rhys' titular work was something of an art project as well as an album.

Musically it contained gems such as Shark Ridden Waters, and was released in February 2011 through Turnstile.

The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar

The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar

Released in January 2011, The Big Roar took this North Wales trio to great acclaim. As a début it's hard to beat: wall of sound meets delicate subtlety with Ritzy's vocals and guitar providing an arresting focal point.

The Joy Formidable recently played Reading/Leeds and have received support from Radio1.

Lleuwen - Tân

Lleuwen - Tân

This, her third album, was released in April 2011 by Gwymon and was recorded in Brittany with a bilingual make-up of Welsh and Breton languages.

Tân was reviewed to great acclaim by The Observer, The Guardian, Mojo, Time Out and The Financial Times.

Manic - Postcards

Manic Street Preachers - Postcards From A Young Man

"One last shot at mass communication," said Nicky Wire of this, their 10th studio album. It certainly had a powerful manifesto in lead single (It's Not War) Just The End Of Love.

Also featuring collaborations with Ian McCulloch of Echo And The Bunnymen and Guns N' Roses' Duff McKagan, it was released in September 2010 through Columbia.

Stagga - The Warm Air Room

Stagga - The Warm Air Room

A member of Dead Residents, contributor to Chrome Kids and a grime crossover star in his own right, Cardiff's Stagga has received support from Radio 1 and 1Xtra in his quest for urban music greatness.

The Warm Air Room was released in April 2011 by Rag & Bone.

Sweet Baboo - I'm A Dancer

Sweet Baboo - I'm A Dancer/Songs About Sleepin'

A long-time face on the Cardiff scene, Sweet Baboo has been invited to record sessions for BBC 6 Music's Marc Riley, Huw Stephens and Stuart Maconie.

His song How I'd Live My Life (The Bumblebee Song) sound-tracked a series of TV spots for the Visit Wales tourist board campaign in 2010. I'm A Dancer was released in September 2010 by Shape Records.

Y Niwl

Y Niwl

The support act for Gruff Rhys this year, Y Niwl have brought their idiosyncratic surf-style instrumental songs to wider attention with the coup of being used as the theme tune to Football Focus this year. But their music is deserving of deeper investigation.

This début album, released in December 2010 through Aderyn Papur is a good place to start.

  • Y Niwl on Welsh Music Prize site
  • Y Niwl on BBC Music
  • Huw Stephens said: "We are very pleased to launch the Welsh Music Prize with 12 strong albums from Welsh artists. The shortlist is but a reflection on the quality music made in Wales and released internationally. We hope the prize brings these collections of work to a new audience, and we are looking forward to announcing an overall winner on 21 October."

    What do you think of the shortlist? 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.

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    Colorama - Llyfr Llywio/Colouring Book

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    Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 08:32 UK time, Friday, 2 September 2011

    It's been a busy old summer for Colorama, aka Carwyn Ellis. He's played at every shindig, garden party, festival and radio session going. Just looking at his calendar, let alone living it, would make you dizzy. He's the proper travelling troubadour of old: made for the road, made for music and made for making melodies.

    His CV is impressive: he's already worked with some of the biggest musicians in the business, including Oasis, Edwyn Collins, Shane MacGowan and many more, and yet again he's humble about such achievements. His first musical release was on a Japanese label called Noise McCartney back in 2008, and each release since then, whether a mini album or Christmas card, has been a delightful, warming musical experience. So accomplished are the melodies and so persistent the hooks, that they feel instantly familiar.

    These new songs from Llyfr Llywio/Colouring Book (out 24 October on See Monkey Do Monkey) are no different - signature Colorama - and in advance of their release we asked Carwyn to come share a bit about his summer with us on BBC Radio Wales. Here's a clip from the interview:

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    With podcasts, lovely photography and videos - plus of course the music - do check out the Colorama website.

    I admit it - I like my job...

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    Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 14:32 UK time, Thursday, 1 September 2011

    When I was younger, I always loved September. The summer holidays were great, but I genuinely looked forward to the start of a new school year (geek, geek!). Sharp, new pencils, unsmudged erasers, pristine copybooks, a uniform so starched it could stand up independently - the new school term practically reeked of promise and exciting possibilities.

    I'm unashamed to admit that I feel much the same regarding the new orchestral season. Granted, I have no new stationery (I'm on an economy drive, so last year's chewed pencils and crumbling erasers will have to make do; look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves, my mother says) and as my quest for the perfect long sleeved black dress continues, I have no new 'uniform' either. However, looking through our new season, I feel the same new school year excitement about many of our upcoming projects.

    This will be Thierry Fischer's final season as Principal Conductor with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and there are some real 'do not miss' concerts, even in just the first month of the new season. I'm very excited about the St David's Hall concert on 30 September featuring John Adams' 2003 Pulitzer Prize winning work On the Transmigration of Souls, and Beethoven's Symphony No 9 (yes, father, that is the Ode to Joy one).

    The Adams work is definitely worth catching - commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and the Lincoln Centre's Great Performers, it is a commemoration for those killed in the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001. More about this work closer to the time.

    There are also opportunities to get better acquainted with our Principal Conductor Designate, Thomas Søndergård. You can catch him very early on in the season, in Cardiff and in Cheltenham, on 16 and 17 September respectively. Steven Isserlis will be the soloist and I will finally get the opportunity to play Debussy's La Mer in its complete form, rather than just the orchestral excerpt that you get in auditions.

    Aside from this, we will be doing loads of recording, getting out and about across mid and north Wales, and in November, continuing our education and outreach work with Grant Llewellyn.

    I loved the viola from the moment I started learning it with Mrs Carslaw in Camphill Primary School, County Antrim. I would arrange my soft toys into imaginary orchestras and make them play imaginary symphonies with me. My home town, Ballymena, seemed a world away from what I saw as the magical, glamorous sphere of classical music.

    I know it sounds a bit daft, but it really did seem like another world and I never quite dared to dream that I would actually end up in an orchestra. Despite now knowing the truth (ie there's very little glamour and you seldom actually get to wear a ball gown), I still think this is a magical job. I hope you will enjoy reading my scribbles about life in the orchestra over this coming season!

    Laura Sinnerton is a viola player with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. You can find out further information about the orchestra and view their concert schedule on its website.

    Freddie Mercury, born 5 September 1946

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    James McLaren James McLaren | 14:20 UK time, Thursday, 1 September 2011

    Getting into Queen was the first musically-independent thing I did. When I was about 10 I diverted myself from my parents' record collection and found a band that I loved and they - not to put too fine a point on it - hated. It was something of musical liberation, in retrospect.

    Queen

    Queen

    Freddie Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar, East Africa, would have been 65 on 5 September. Urban legends abound about Mercury, but regardless of the more salacious rumours, he was a type of frontman the world lacks these days. The music industry simply doesn't allow people to accrue the kind of wealth that gives the opportunity to flounce about the world's stages in crowns and gowns, with multiple costume changes and a cornucopia of leotards.

    Apart from Lady Gaga.

    In celebration of his would-be birthday I've been looking back at Queen's gigging history in Wales. Surprisingly, they never played the National Stadium at Cardiff Arms Park, and played their last Welsh show on 10 September 1976, 35 years ago, at Cardiff Castle.

    Poster for Queen at Cardiff Castle

    Poster for Queen at Cardiff Castle. Photo from www.queenconcerts.com

    At that show, as you can see from the poster, Rainbow were meant to play, but pulled out when it became clear that the venue was unable to accommodate their 35ft high rainbow stage prop. Perhaps they couldn't get it through the portcullis entrance at Bute Park. Manfred Mann stepped in and Andy Fairweather-Low of Amen Corner also supported.

    Queen's previous Welsh appearance was again in Cardiff, at the Capitol Theatre on 19 November 1975, just as Bohemian Rhapsody was being released. Bo Rhap was, incidentally, partly recorded at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth.

    Ticket for Queen at Cardiff's Capitol Theatre, 1975

    Ticket for Queen at Cardiff's Capitol Theatre, 1975. Photo from www.queenconcerts.com

    They were supported by Mr Big. Ten years earlier The Beatles played their last UK tour date at the same venue.

    Queen's very first Welsh date was in support of their first album, Queen I, in 1973. They supported Mott The Hoople at Swansea's Brangwyn Hall.

    Ticket for Queen at Swansea's Brangwyn Hall

    Ticket for Queen at Swansea's Brangwyn Hall. Photo from www.queenconcerts.com

    No concert footage exists of the Welsh shows, but if you were at any of them please comment below!

    Were you there? 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.

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    Man Without Country - King Complex EP

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    Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 11:13 UK time, Thursday, 1 September 2011

    Man Without Country: notice the name. This is a band very much adapted to the Welsh capital, but who probably feel a little outside what has been going on around them, musically, for the past few years.

    Hence they've created their own unique sound, more at home with Scandinavian sense of space, or the driving indie-dance crossover of bands like Delphic or Two Door Cinema Club. My comparisons are obvious and slightly lazy I'm afraid, as their own musical influences are much more akin to the experimentation of Brian Eno than today's pop.

    Man Without Country came from nowhere but were instantly being taken on board across the whole of the UK - and all this before releasing anything properly: heavily backed by the Introducing network of shows; Radio One daytime plays; festival appearances; 6 Music's Laverne show giving them a Maida Vale session and the luckiest of chances taking them to do a showcase in LA for a choice few British Introducing acts.

    This début King Complex EP then probably carries a lot of responsibility. It's a taster for an album, Foe, which will follow in the autumn, but the weight, expectation and anticipation are all par for the course for the duo.

    I recently caught up with Tom and Ryan at the BBC Wales studios to ask about all the fun of LA, and making this the King Complex EP:

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    Listen to the full EP here: www.manwithoutcountry.com.

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    Have the Manics 'waved goodbye'?

    James McLaren James McLaren | 09:33 UK time, Thursday, 1 September 2011

    Manic Street Preachers' Nicky Wire has told NME that their last album, Postcards From A Young Man, was a "wave goodbye".

    "It's genuinely, for the three of us, one of our favourite records. There's just something... there's a sense of us giving it all we've got, and I think we've got to wave our goodbye a bit.

    "I think this greatest hits [National Treasures] is completing the end of the second great cycle of Manic Street Preachers. Hopefully there'll be a third, but we've got a big job to take on to do that."

    "[Their O2 singles concert] is going to be an immense project, production-wise: screens, videos, you name it, you know, it'll be a completely unique thing. And we'll never do it again... it's really, kind of, finishing up."

    Jarrad Owens of AmpedWales is a long-time Manics fan. He said:

    "I don't think many people realise that they're the last band of their generation who haven't split up. The only bands who I can think of that come close are Oasis and Blur, both of which have split.

    "In the last four years the band have have a second wind of commercial success, riding on three consistently successful albums, an abundance of sell-out gigs and huge media interest. It seems an odd time to decide on a split, particularly with such a loyal and dedicated fan base.

    "I knew that their record contract was coming to an end, but I thought with the ownership of their very own studio they might start to go down the DIY route.

    "I had a horrible gut feeling that this could be the end of the Manics when Nicky described Postcards From A Young Man as "our last shot at mass communication". However, maybe we can take some comfort in the band's track record of statements, notably promising to sell 16 million copies of Generation Terrorists before splitting up back in 1992."

    What do you think? Do you think it's time for the Manics to split up? 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.

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    Adam Walton playlist and show info: Sunday 28 August 2011

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    Adam Walton Adam Walton | 07:46 UK time, Thursday, 1 September 2011

    This week's show is now available via the BBC iPlayer. Please take a listen any time between now and the start of the next programme.

    Another sonic pot pourri for you, celebrating the incredible diversity of musical talent in Wales. Pot pourri is a bad analogy, really, because the individual elements of this show are not odd, tough, freeze-dried fragments that have had their souls replaced with aromatically-ludicrous natural oils.

    Nope - instead we have flesh and blood human Welsh(and Welsh-ish) people crafting sonics to make the blood rush a little more quickly around your brains, your hearts and any other bits of you that generate excitement.

    Very excitingly we have an exclusive taster of a mix that the unfeasibly talented aural architect, Ben Hayes, aka Soundhog, has constructed for the influential allez-allez music blog. Ben's encyclopaedic musical knowledge, perfectionism and great taste are writ all over the 12 minutes 20 seconds we have for you.

    Ben returns later in the show to inspire us further with the Isley Borthers at their late '60s, funk-fuelled finest.

    While I'm serving time for crimes against alliteration, you can also enjoy Alan Holmes talking to us about the long-lost, never-officially-recorded, but undoubtedly ace Megabats.

    And Lara returns to translate something traditional and beautifully updated from 9bach's debut album.

    There are début plays for Mykes, Caramelou, Jay Robinson, Dave Elwyn, Totem Terrors, ManPanics and Heavy Petting Zoo.

    Send new releases/demos/recommendations/thoughts/gig info etc to themysterytour@gmail.com, or (with regards to music submissions) via the BBC Introducing Uploader.

    Have an excellent week.

    Maybe see you at Gruff Rhys/Y Niwl & Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog's gig at Pesda Roc on Thursday night, or The Pooh Sticks' final (ever) Cardiff show at The Globe on Sunday night, or on the field at Merthyr Rocks.

    Lots of love, but kisses would be inappropriate...

    Adam

    GALLOPS - 'Speak To Me ( Featuring Hysterical Injury )'
    Wrexham

    HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT - 'Irk The Purists'
    Birkenhead

    FUTURE OF THE LEFT - 'Manchasm'
    Cardiff

    MYKES - 'Spin That Wax'
    Swansea

    CARAMELOU - 'Moombah What?!'
    Newport

    H. HAWKLINE - 'My Dreams'
    Cardiff

    GORKY'S ZYGOTIC MYNCI - 'Heart Of Kentucky'
    Camarthen

    EUROS CHILDS - 'Roogie Boogie'
    Pembrokeshire

    DOGBONES, THE - 'All Your Friends Are Going To Kill You'
    Holyhead / London

    POOH STICKS, THE - 'Young People'
    Swansea

    HOUDINI DAX - 'Magicians'
    Cardiff

    SATURDAY'S KIDS - 'Whisper In My Ear'
    Cardiff

    CRASH DISCO - 'Two Bad'
    Bangor

    TINY SKITZ - 'Grime Is The One'
    Newport

    GRETA ISAAC - 'Don't Go'
    Cowbridge

    TRWBADOR - 'Sun In The Winter ( Channel Swimmer Remix )'
    Camarthen / Cardiff

    BOO RADLEYS, THE - 'Does This Hurt?'
    Liverpool

    GOLDEN FABLE - 'The Golden Hour'
    Ewloe

    JAY ROBINSON - 'Get Mad Now'
    Colwyn Bay

    DAVE ELWYN - 'Steam Jar'
    Bala

    ALAN HOLMES - 'Spoken Contribution'
    Bangor

    MEGABATS, THE - 'Tonight ( Recorded Live At Bangor Uni S. U. 1983 )'
    Bangor

    EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER - 'Living Sin ( Extract - Soundhog's Allez-allez Mix )'
    London / Cardiff Distribution

    NASTY HABITS - 'Shadow Boxing ( Extract - Soundhog's Allez-allez Mix )'
    Unknown

    NORMAL, THE - 'Warm Leatherette ( Extract - Soundhog's Allez-allez Mix )'
    London

    RADIOHEAD - 'The National Anthem ( Extract - Soundhog's Allez-allez Mix )'
    Oxford

    CABARET VOLTAIRE - 'Digital Rasta ( Extract - Soundhog's Allez-allez Mix )'
    Sheffield

    ARGENT - 'Hold Your Head Up ( Extract - Soundhog's Allez-allez Mix )'
    London

    FROG - 'Witch Hunt ( Extract - Soundhog's Allez-allez Mix )'
    Unknown

    ADD N TO X - 'Invasion Of The Polaroid People ( Extract - Soundhog's Allez-allez Mix )'
    London

    DAVE PRESCOTT AND BEACH SURGEON - 'Mouth Like Homicide ( Extract - Soundhog's Allez-allez Mix )'
    Manchester

    TOTEM TERRORS - 'Totentanz'
    Cardiff

    GIRLS - 'Honey Bunny'
    San Francisco ( Welsh Management )

    Y NIWL - 'Un Deg Chwech'
    Gwynedd

    BARRACUDAS, THE - 'His Last Summer'
    London / Cardiff Distribution

    CARBON MANUAL, THE - 'Winter Begins'
    Swansea

    SILVER APPLES - 'Program'
    New York

    C.R.S.T. - 'Fear ( Dub )'
    Cardiff

    MANPANICS - 'Don't Try To Stop Me Baby'
    Cardiff

    BUDGIE - 'Parents'
    Cardiff

    REDLIP - 'Bert Jansch'
    Bangor / Northern Ireland

    BERT JANSCH - 'Rambling's Gonna Be The Death Of Me'
    Edinburgh

    HEAVY PETTING ZOO - 'Non - Stop Dancer'
    Swansea

    LARA CATRIN - 'Spoken Contribution'
    Bangor / Cardiff

    9BACH - 'Bwthyn Fy Nain'
    Bangor

    WINTER VILLAINS - 'House Of Knives ( Charlie Francis Remix )'
    Cardiff

    BEN HAYES - 'Spoken Contribution'
    Ruthin

    ISLEY BROTHERS, THE - 'I Know Who You Been Socking It To'
    Cincinnati, Ohio

    PULCO - 'Mexican Mods & Mexican Rockers'
    Bangor

    TOM WAITS - 'Trouble's Braids'
    Unknown.

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