« Previous | Main | Next »

Y Niwl: surf's up in Gwynedd

Post categories:

Adam Walton Adam Walton | 11:59 UK time, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Look, there are those who will outright dismiss the idea of guitar instrumental surf-ish music in 2010. I wonder if those same people forego pizza because it's been around for a couple of centuries; thumb their nose at the moon for being an old fart of a planetary satellite; and only read novels finished the day after they start reading them.

But one man's passé is another man's revelation, and in my book there's nowt as passé as prescriptivism. All that counts, generally, are vision and the passion to see that vision through.

Y Niwl's vision is guitar instrumentals in the tradition of Dick Dale, Link Wray and the Ventures. The junkshop organ that oscillates through flipside Tri hints at The Tornados' Joe Meek-produced Telstar, a record that changed the instrumental forever, that became iconic because of its experimental sounds and recording techniques.

It might seem ironic, then, that I cite such a landmark, forward-thinking recording in a review of an EP that is so determinedly retro in its aesthetic. But there is something defiantly now about a band and producer willing to eschew all of the modern recording brickbats and safety nets to create real sounds, sounds that you can't synthesise with a plug-in, a philosophy that rails against the dogma of Autotune and Pro Tools' ability to fix out of time musicians by divorcing the rhythm of their hearts out of the equation. And I know that that in itself isn't a new approach: I remember all those interviews with The La's back in the day and, more recently, Jack White's lambasting of soulless, modern recording techniques and technologies.

Newness is a massively important part of pop music. But sometimes we seek it at the expense of all of the other qualities that make music great.

And, make no mistake, this is a doorstop piece of vinyl filled with great sounds captured greatly. 

The EP transcends its influences because it is very very good indeed. It is very very good indeed because the four gentlemen responsible for the playing, and the man responsible for the recording, love these sounds. They love the reverb-y twang , the crash of cymbals, the spray of notes, the organic ethos of a band in a room making a sound that as of and in itself can fill the grooves of a piece of vinyl with magic. And, most importantly, the three tracks - Un, Dau and Tri (and I am loving that minimalist approach to track titles) - are fantastic tunes.

Un rolls in on some deceptively simple plucked octaves on the guitar before snaking a tune the equal of Perfidia or Misirlou around us, and then sounding like it's being sucked into a whole other dimension. That particular part of the track is its genius. It's also incredibly authentic. The surf guitar sound was supposed to mirror the auditory experience of the wave curling in around and crashing in on top of you. That moment when you - as the surfer - would be seeking to push it further and further, sustaining the rush for as long as possible. Un evokes that wonderfully.

Dau plunges beneath the waves to somewhere far more languorous and mysterious. If Leone had set The Good, the Bad and the Ugly under the sea, Morricone's score would have sounded just like this. It's my favourite of the three tracks and one that is most akin to the woozy psychedelic spirit that infuses many of their peers: Jen Jeniro and Cate Le Bon (who they're touring with in March) in particular.

Tri sees the Farfisa duelling much more prominently with the guitar. It's another great rush of sound. Another great tune. And great to dance to. I'd imagine.

There's more on the band here: myspace.com/yniwl


  • No comments to display yet.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.