Archives for October 2010

Nicky Wire on BBC Breakfast

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James McLaren James McLaren | 12:39 UK time, Friday, 29 October 2010

A disconsolate Nicky Wire appeared on BBC Breakfast this morning to apologise to Manic Street Preachers fans after the band were forced to postpone gigs this week as a result of James Dean Bradfield's laryngitis.

Watch a short clip here:

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Martyn Joseph's Broken Peace

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:15 UK time, Friday, 29 October 2010

Penarth's Martyn Joseph has penned a collection of songs as part of a project to mark the centenary of the Tonypandy Riots.

Martyn Joseph

Martyn Joseph

Speaking to the Western Mail, Joseph said of the Broken Peace album: "I knew something of the Tonypandy Riots already but as I journeyed on, my interest in Welsh history grew.

"I began to read a lot about the riots and researched them. Trying to write six songs about it was quite a challenge - in fact, that's what I found most daunting."

Joseph joined students from Tonypandy Community College and Ysgol Gyfun Y Cymer on the project, with musical director Andrew Grifftihs.

"I noticed such a passion and talent in these young people," said Joseph. "They are playing the music and have written a couple of songs themselves. It would have been so easy for them to think, 'who cares?' when it comes to historic events but they are so enthusiastic."

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Manics apologise for cancelled gigs

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James McLaren James McLaren | 08:28 UK time, Friday, 29 October 2010

After postponing three gigs this weekend, including tonight's Brixton Academy gig, Manic Street Preachers have released a statement from acutely laryngitis-struck singer James Dean Bradfield.

James Dean Bradfield

James Dean Bradfield

"I would like to personally apologise to the fans. Nothing makes us feel worse than having to postpone a show. We were particularly looking forward to playing two nights at Brixton as we have such special memories of previous gigs at this venue. To say we are gutted about this situation is putting it mildly!"

Tickets for the Birmingham O2 Academy gig are valid for the rescheduled show on Tuesday 14 December.

Yesterday's Brixton tickets are valid for Friday 21 January and tonight's tickets are valid for Saturday 22 January.

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The last chord... many times over

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Roy Noble Roy Noble | 08:15 UK time, Friday, 29 October 2010

Crotchets and quavers came up in abundance this past week. Music was in the air.

On the radio programme I mentioned that a German sausage producer plays Mozart and Beethoven while the sausages are being made. He swears that because of the lilting and uplifting ambience, the sausages are so much better quality.

Now, I've heard of cows giving more milk to a musical background, chickens laying more eggs and even vines producing better quality wine, but I'm not sure about sausages. Then again, if it works, don't knock it... there's more to heaven and earth than we fully understand.

Boyhood pals Berian Evans and Roy

Boyhood pals: Berian Evans and Roy

We had a visitor at Noble Towers to add interest over the past few days. Berian Evans, a lifelong friend of mine, originally from Brynaman but now of Perth Australia, stayed with us on his tour of relatives and friends in 'the Old Country'.

Berian is a professional musician, still playing the viola for the Western Australia Symphony Orchestra. For many years he was a violin player, of some note may I say. When he was about 12 he was selected as one of the youngest members of the Welsh National Youth Orchestra, and at 16 became one of the youngest leaders.

I remember his early flirtation with the violin. His parents were very strict about his practicing and he was one of the first boys I knew who wore prickly vests. The harsh linen concentrated his mind I suppose, keeping it on the musical straight and narrow, avoiding temptations that weakened the will.

I have always been jealous of musicians. I know I could have done something about it and taken up an instrument and it is never too late, so who knows?

Mind you, things mitigated against me sometimes. In the Brynaman Infants School percussion group, I was never let loose on the drum. It was always the triangle or tambourine for me.

The percussion group at Brynaman Infants School

The percussion group at Brynaman Infants School

Thinking back to the days in school, when they were looking for choir members for the combined schools choir at the National Eisteddfod at Ystradgynlais in the 1950s, it was Berian Evans himself who told the teacher that I got dizzy when I tried to reach high notes.

I was away ill, with measles, so I couldn't tell the teacher that Berian was talking through his knitted balaclava, which was just as prickly as his vest. His assessment was utter musical garbage, but the teacher still put me in the inter-school group recitation troupe instead.

Musical acumen did jump a generation in our family, because Noble Junior, our son Richard, did play the cello and performed in St. David's Hall, Cardiff, with the Mid-Glamorgan County Orchestra. He also went on to form a group, playing a bass guitar and being a lead singer.

So, deep down there must have been something hidden in the blood trying to get out for it does manifest itself in me on occasion. Give me four or five pints and I will give a passable rendering of Don Williams' I Recall A Gipsy Woman. Push me further with a malt whisky and Dean Martin's Little Ole Wine Drinker Me just flows out.


Roy Noble is bringing his famous storytelling skills to a computer near you as part of the BBC First Click Campaign - aimed at encouraging people to take their first steps to getting online. If you know somebody who needs help to get online, call the free BBC First Click advice line on 08000 150950.

Sŵn Festival day three

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 08:47 UK time, Thursday, 28 October 2010

Day three begins and I'm starting to feel the first symptoms of Sŵn Fever. My feet feel like I've filled my shoes with gravel and gone to a pogoing convention. My brain is a scrambled mess of high joy and post booze anxiety. My ears are still ringing with the wonders of the days before.

I spend the first few hours of Saturday locked in my hotel room, curtains closed, trying to erect the initial semblance of a framework for the following night's radio show. The hotel's lack of free Wi Fi makes me do something unthinkable to a coat-hanger in my wardrobe. Thus avenged, I grab the clothes that aren't too minging and brave the streets.

Down in the lobby I remember I'm supposed to be DJing, so yo-yo back to my room for the box of Welsh seven inches. That's what I've decided to play, see. But worried that I don't have enough, or that playing 60ft Dolls' entire back catalogue of A-Sides and B-sides might be a self indulgence too far, I head off for Spillers Records.

I know it's in an arcade. But Cardiff, you have more arcades than Blackpool! I get lost in a warren of wool shops and walk headfirst into a crowd of a href="">emo kids singing Kids in Glass Houses songs. The generation gap yaws and in my unforgiving state of mind and body, I pray that they all fall into it, even just temporarily. But the KIGH fans are my saviours. They're stood in front of Spillers because the band are doing an in-store here later as part of Sŵn.


I climb the stairs to the vinyl section. God I love Wales' independent record shops! Even the ones with stairs. I grab 7"s by Bedford Falls, Gindrinker, Euros Childs and The Gentle Good and, with my box now brought somewhere close to up to date, I make my way to Dempseys. And get lost again. Obviously.

The DJ set goes okay, I take over from C2's Dyl Mei, a man with as encyclopaedic a musical knowledge as it's possible to squeeze into a human cranium. He shows me where the free beers are. WARNING! DANGER! goes the neon light in my conscience. I put a beer mat over it and pretend it's a disco strobe.

Matt Jarrett, from the most excellent Joy Collective is here. He stands next to me and talks into my earhole all the way through my DJ set. Then he wonders why occasional records don't start quite as they should! I play Mary Hopkin, Colorama, Murry the Hump, 60ft Dolls, Badfinger, Man, Psycho VII, Super Furry Animals (blog editor is going to be getting annoyed at this point, wrapping all those websites around the band names), Gorkys, Y Niwl, The Darling Buds... oh, and Sly Alibi by Big Leaves.

This is a key song for me. My aborted record label released it on 7" back in 1998. I've only ever met one person who had bought it. Guess what? The moment I play it, he's there stood in front of me! The magic of Sŵn strikes again.

DJ set completed, Matt, Andy ('Big Leaves man') and I head over to Buffalo. We race a taxi containing other friends, and lose.

Upstairs at Buffalo I'm a little befuddled by Vvolves. They start off rather badly, get rather good, and then go a bit rubbish again. They're young. They have time. I feel like I'm doing a hatchet job on Bambi for his lack of impressive antlers. Given time Vvolves could grow antlers. This is a rubbishly mixed, bestial metaphor. And that sentence is even worse.

Buffalo has a lovely courtyard. We enjoy it and people try to force beer down me. Fortunately, Buffalo's scratch staff of two are on my side. Beers are taking half an hour to acquire. Thankfully.

Back upstairs there is quite a crowd. "Who is this?" I ask. "Still Corners," says Matt. I'm not going to forget their name ever again.

Still Corners

Still Corners

The beautiful, cinematic sounds that fill the room are most unexpected. I say 'Cowboy Junkies', Matt laughs at my wayward comparison and offers a much more apposite, 'Mazzy Star'. It's the sound of a French boulevard on a crisp Winter morning, trenchcoat collar pulled up, Gitanes smoke making the eye squint, walking briskly to a forbidden triste that is bound to end in monochromatic heartbreak.

It's beautifully measured and artful. The drama here is in the restraint - like the next Darwinian step along from Portishead's Dummy. The terracotta army audience are bewitched. I steal past dropped elbows, faces fixed forwards, jaws hanging open, kneel down and lift my camera. The chic singer - cheekbones, Kohl and simple black dress - is as beautiful as her voice and her songs. I mean that with the greatest respect. It's peripheral to the music, of course. But it adds to the allure and the uniqueness of the band and their breathtaking performance.

As good as Nedry. And that took some typing.

We have friends to meet back at Dempseys. Things are starting to teeter. The prow of this ship is plunging downwards and that wave rising above it looks like Very Bad News Indeed.

An hour... maybe two... hell, it could have been half... is spent talking to ace people who aren't at Sŵn, but are excellent to see all-the-same. Actually, by this stage, talking to people who haven't got thousand yard ear is a blessed relief. We indulge ourselves in conversational sustenance, say goodbyes, and plunge back into the night.

I drag us into Y Fuwch Goch. "This guy is hotly-tipped," I say doing a passable impersonation of someone Arty Fufkin would look down his nose at.

"Who is it?"

Joe Worricker."

The guy on stage doesn't look anything like I expected. He's half munchkin, half tumble through David Bowie's wardrobe of mid-60's cast-offs. He's much better looking than me and a damn sight better dressed, just to put these things in context. But the electric blue trousers are rather distracting.

'We don't care what he's wearing, Walton, what does he sound like?'

Look, the trousers are so distracting it's difficult to assimilate his sound. Maybe turquoise interferes with sound waves? I think he sounds light, pop and soulful. I'm reminded of The Blow Monkeys. Clearly, no one else present is because their reference points aren't preserved in amber.

"He sounds like he's doing an X Factor audition. It's nails down the blackboard for me," says Andy.

"He's doing his own songs!" I protest in Joe's defence. "He's..." I'm not allowed to use that word, Andy. I'd disagree, but his soulful sheen feels as out of kilter with Swn as his electric blue pants do with all aesthetic tastes this side of the Pharaohs.

Which leads me nicely to the next band.

We return to Dempseys and clamber the stairs in anticipation of Egyptian Hip Hop. Now, these - on their debut EP at least - are POP. Electronically enhanced, phat of beat, an indirect descendent of Nile Rodgers' genius, but POP all the same. The queue outside testifies to the expectation that has been raised by enthusiastic support from Huw Stephens and the Introducing fraternity. Our expectation rather deflates after half an hour of waiting over their allocated set time.

"Let's go find some muuuuuusssiiiiiiiccc!" I holler rather boisterously. Yep, I've reached the level of a Tennants-fuelled footie fan.

Maybe The School were on in Clwb before Egyptian Hip Hop were due to start. I can't remember. Referring back to the Swn programme that still hangs from my neck feels like cheating. Got to go with gut instinct, even if it is inaccurate.

Clwb is as clean and beautifully appointed as it always is. It has to be the 'nicest' venue in the universe. It's the perfect place to see The School, then. No one wants to be described as 'nice'. You either sound like a biscuit or someone too simple and idiotic to have enemies. I like my ambulance drivers and UN relief workers 'nice'.

The School

The School

The School, then, although having apparent 'nice' qualities are really a raucous gang of drug-munching weirdoes who'd probably liquidise your pets whilst listening to Uriah Heep records backwards.

Their posters adorn the walls of all of the key Norwegian black metal bands. When Tom Six was looking for music to soundtrack The Human Centipede (if there is a link there, do not follow it!) he asked The School but they refused on the grounds that the film sounded "too pussy" for their tastes. The Daily Mail united with Billy Bragg to try and stop their "unholy filth" from "polluting the minds of the British youth."

GG Allin's estate refused permission for The School to cover any of his works on the grounds that "even association with The School would damage G.G's reputation".

It's something of a surprise then that their music is the epitome of smiles and chimes along to the most beautiful sound of young hearts falling in love.

Now, that is truly subversive. And excellent. I love The School.

Downstairs their American equivalent, The Magic Kids, are about to play. We're almost the only ones in front of the stage. I think that they're thinking: "we've come all the way from Memphis to play in front of a drunk Chris Tarrant look-a-like and John Torode?"

While the thought is still fresh on their synapses, the room fills fully. There's hardly room for me to totter. All I remember is that they're ace. Full of sun and glockenspiels, but not in a Midwich-Cuckoos-with-too-many-Fairport-Convention-albums-kind-of-way. I attempt to smile. It probably looks like a leer.

They finish and it's out into the storm. A different kind of Lear. You don't need much more than half a neuron to work out who the Fool is in this staging. I play the part to perfection. I remember wanting to say 'hello' to Bethan Elfyn. I remember being allowed into Clwb Ifor Bach's inner sanctum to say 'hello' to Bethan Elfyn. I can't say much more than 'hello'. Steve Lamacq is here. I gurgle at him.

A couple of us fall off seats.

Someone drinks something horrendous.

I hear tales about a man who is going to paddle down the Amazon.

I can't remember what it is he's going to paddle.

I have hotel breakfast before bed. It's Wednesday now and I still haven't recovered.

Swn 2010 I loved you. Sŵn 2011 will be a much more dignified affair.

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Interview: Lostprophets at the Oxford Union

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James McLaren James McLaren | 12:25 UK time, Wednesday, 27 October 2010

A couple of weeks back Lostprophets made history by speaking at the Oxford Union.

Following in the footsteps of world-renowned politicians, philosophers, religious and literary figures (and Michael Jackson), the Ponty band journeyed to the hallowed halls of the country's most famous educational establishment to talk about a range of issues pertinent to them and their career.

We caught up with keyboardist Jamie Oliver this week to talk briefly about their appearance.

Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver

How did the invitation to appear at the Union come about?

"We were invited a while back to participate in a debate at the Union but due to touring commitments we had to respectfully decline. When we were asked to return to give a talk, we jumped at the chance. The Union has provided a platform for musicians to share their experiences for many years now and some reputable artists have spoken including the late Michael Jackson."

Did you deliberate over whether or not to do it?

"We did think at first 'what experiences did we have to share?' But, the more we discussed it, we felt our 10 year journey in the music industry provided us with a very unique perspective of which we could talk, and the privilege of being asked was something we could not turn down."

Was it a full house?

"I was personally expecting there to only be about 20-40 attendees, but we entered the hall to find there were over 250 people there to listen."

What were the topics covered?

"We discussed a number of topics ranging from the difficulties involved in being forced to choose a career path at the age of 16-17, and recognising crossroads in one's life, and how we followed our hearts to where we are now. We also briefly touched upon industry issues such as downloading and the pledge system."

What was the reception like for you?

"During the nearly two hours we spoke, only one person left and the audience was quiet and respectful and seemingly engaged for the duration. It was an amazing and proud experience."

Did anything surprise you?

"I was a little taken aback by the history of the place, and seeing photos in the halls of the Queen, the Dalai Lama, Winston Churchill and Mother Teresa speaking was quite a shock. In addition to this, I was surprised to meet such forward thinking students and to be asked such intelligent probing questions. All in all, it was a privilege to be asked and a thoroughly pleasurable experience to be part of."

Read an interview with Lostprophets in the run-up to their appearance from Oxford Student.

Sŵn and Dirty Protest

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Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 10:07 UK time, Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Sŵn = Noise. Sŵn = Music. Sŵn = Cardiff. Sŵn = three days of everything. Sŵn = exhausting. Sŵn = fun. Sŵn = friends. Sŵn = no sleep. Sŵn = excellent festival.

Whatever it means to you, Sŵn festival curated by Huw Stephens and John Rostron is an adventurous journey into what can happen with a little genius inspiration, and a lot of good will. They bring together promoters, artists, musicians, venues, DJs, curators, and throw it all at the city in one weekend of madness.

As a Cardiff resident, and a music fan, Sŵn is an explosion of the impossible, a non-stop schedule, an over stimulus, a delight and a nightmare, from packed-out gigs to queues around the block, it's totally amazing - but also frustrating at times.

It's everything someone who lives here would like to see on a more regular basis in the city: an enthusiastic music crowd there for new artists, there for a challenge, there for musical curiosity as much as the local favourites. So even accepting that it doesn't happen on a regular basis, how special and fantastic is 'Sŵn' then, that it can inspire the city for a short while to turn out in numbers, to support the local, to kick into life for this weekend over and above any other.

Cardiff is a small city and a laid-back city, but has an over-abundance of musical and creative talent on display in all its glory during Sŵn weekend.

Despite the wealth of activities on offer, rather than do what I usually do in these city-hopping events (running around like an idiot), I found myself choosing choice activities, quality over quantity. I wanted to see and hear something different, so I decided to start my Sŵn festival adventure at Dirty Protest at the back of Milgi café bar, and hear a selection of plays inspired by SFA songs.

Dirty Protest. Photo: Tom Beardshaw

Dirty Protest. Photo: Tom Beardshaw

I loved the removal from reality: the walk down the dark alley, the slightly surreal décor of the warehouse, our seating which was big armchairs, and the only heating being the packed body heat of so many there for the Dirty Protest experience. The plays were subtle, tender, witty, clever, alternative, human, and very very funny. Well done all involved.

From Milgi, I popped over to the bustling Wombany Street to catch some of the Oxford Label Big Scary Monsters' night at Fuwch Goch, including having nothing short of a claustrophobia attack during Tall Ships. Fuwch is a lovely bar, the PA was excellent, and there's a certain charm in watching a band play right up close and personal, but when the band finished, I couldn't get out such was the density of people in there. Panic.

On Friday Adam Walton, C2 and I curated a BBC Wales night at Chapter Arts Centre. I imagine Adam has written a thesis on the event, therefore I'll just summarise briefly to say that I had lots of fun. I particularly loved Wickes' shambolic charm and Young Legionnaire. The latter have come a long way from the pre-Glastonbury show when they supported Foals in a warm up gig in Clwb Ifor Bach, by now Paul Mullen and Gordon Moakes work beautifully together and their songs have a melodic heaviness, an epic and majestic feel about them.

Please refer to Adam's review for more from Friday night, and tune in on Thursday 28 October to my Radio 1 show for loads of live music from the gig.

On Saturday, again I found myself a little out of sync with the Sŵn schedule, as I helped producer 'Radio' Ed record some sessions in the BBC. We saw Happy Birthday, Beach Fossils, La La Vasquez, Still Corners all pop in to record some acoustic sessions for future Radio 1 Wales shows.

I ran on from work to start queuing at the Perfume Genius gig at Chapter. Some had been given hand stamps in the afternoon to try and control the crowd. The overly-careful preparation and crowd control made sense when I then walked into the seated theatre at Chapter. The lights were low, and the fragile strains and delicate keys of PG were a delight and once again transported me from life and reality altogether. A truly lovely performance; it reminded me a lot of Anthony & the Johnsons.

Back to the mayhem of the centre of town on a Saturday night, and I was DJing with The Vinyl Vendettas and Steve Lamacq, after a robust and lively performance from Race Horses on the top floor of Clwb Ifor Bach. This was one of my favourite DJing stints this year and ended up getting home about 7am - testament to the craziness and how brilliant it is sometimes just hanging out with friends at the end of a brilliant festival.

Thanks all at Sŵn for all your hard work, and for putting on such a fabulous event for Cardiff City. Swn = Nos Da.

Charlotte joins The Klaxons

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James McLaren James McLaren | 08:40 UK time, Wednesday, 27 October 2010

In the history of unexpected collaborations, this was up there with Axl'n'Elton at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert; David Bowie and Bing Crosby and The KLF with Tammy Wynette.

Yesterday, popstrel Charlotte Church joined The Klaxons in an impromptu version of the band's new single Twin Flames. Both acts were appearing on BBC 5 Live's Richard Bacon show.

Although she and the The Klaxons had barely any time for a rehearsal - cramming in a news break - the performance was on the money. Take a look for yourself:

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Church released her new album, Back To Scratch, this week.

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Sŵn Festival day two

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 14:34 UK time, Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Sŵn Day Two. I wake up and regret it immediately. Too much fun the preceding night, most of it very blurred. It's a busy day today and I should have taken that into account. But who amongst you - who? - would tiptoe back to their hotel for an early night when there are pubs brimful of people who you never get to see at any other time of the year? Oh, right. Okay.

Swn is my annual holiday. I'm not joking. I could go to Minorca, or Barmouth, or Bulgaria, but instead I save my pennies and come here. That's just my way of explaining myself. If you bumped into me and I looked a bit worse for wear, this is why. Mentally picture my red-faced ass (?) in Benidorm and my happy demeanour and fainting whiff of eau de hops make more sense, perhaps.

Tonight BBC Introducing, BBC Radio Wales and C2 have our night of tunes for Sŵn. We're at Chapter Arts Centre. If you haven't been to Chapter yet, don't. Returning home to a Chapter-free town is a depressing experience. If you don't experience its airy, broadminded charms, with nutritious vegetarian treats on the menu, and an arty cinema I keep walking into looking for toilets, then you won't miss them or curse your hometown for its criminal lack of them.

Hosting a night at Sŵn is a tremendous honour. Amongst us, we get to programme a night of great sounds. However, hosting a night roots you to that venue for the duration. It means that all the random wandering and bumping into unfamiliar noises that makes Swn such a thrill is (mostly) denied me for an evening. But it's a small price to pay when you have great music to gift people.

Drains are the first band on. There's no one in the room. At least, that's the message I get on my mobile from Bethan Elfyn. "Make an announcement in the bar," it says. How toe-curling! I do it, though... in the manner of the most sheepish street hawker in Christendom.

Drains are a Samoan, a Kutosis-ian and a drummer. They take to the stage wearing masks or badly-knitted balaclavas. We can't see their faces. I wonder if they're making an intellectual point with this, but then remember that some people just like wearing masks.



They sound like they're pushing boulders off the edge of tower blocks with nary a care for unfortunates skipping across the urban wasteland below. When the boulders hit, there is big impressive noise. Dan's voice is the essence of everything that Katherine Jenkins isn't. They're fierce fun. They wear masks. Dan scrabbles about below the stage. They disappear after about 20 minutes of grizzle and it's a great start to proceedings. I just wish there had been more people here to see them.

The very moment they finish, Y Bandana are kicking off proceedings in the Drama Studio upstairs in Chapter. I saw (and reviewed) Y Bandana when they played Yr Wythnos Fach for us back in May. They were really charming that night - and had a great energy and lack of self-consciousness. Tonight's set feels a little more 'staged'.

Y Bandana

Y Bandana

Fun as a dramatic false ending can be for the band, ending every song (seemingly) with one is overkill. When they're good (current single Dal Dy Drwyn) they're exuberant and revitalise us with harmonies and melodies to challenge the most curmudgeonly of musical tastes. When they're not so good, the songs flounder a bit amongst muso in jokes and the sound of a Britpop tribute band. Not sounding 'now' is never a bad thing for a young band. Being 'now' means you very quickly become 'then'. But a little more nowse and quality control and Y Bandana will have the audience as excited about their music as they clearly are.

Is the Back to the Future bit at the end intentional? A florid guitar solo grinding to a sudden halt a la Marty McFly at the prom night band auditions. If it is, it is very clever. These lines are thin lines.

Back in the Studio Theatre, the nicest men at Sŵn (Cyrion) are filling the room with beats, bleeps, squiggles and electronic finery. This is resolutely dance music. It's designed to get you moving, get you involved. But although we're in the presence of a pounding 'dum dum dum dum' kick drum, this is the antithesis of dumb.



What sets Rhodri apart from his laptop-toting peers is his natural musicality (the bleeps and sweeps are melodic bleeps and sweeps) and also his ability to assimilate, Borg-like, the sonic motifs of a la mode electronic movements (the dubstep squiggle) but in ways that cast different shadows. It all sounds like Cyrion, in other words. A mighty fine sound. And Theston's live drums give the whole thing a real physicality and presence in the room.

Rhodri orchestrates the whole thing from his MIDI controllers with a real spirit of mischief. Every now and then he strips out whole bars of the sound, disconcerting the audience, only to bring them crashing back in at the right moment. All the best live bands I've ever seen have an air of unpredictability about their performance. It's a remarkably difficult sensibility to evoke for electronic artists. But Cyrion manage it in excelcis.

A breathless sprint upstairs reintroduces me to the red-eyed glory of Steve 'Sweet' Baboo's talents. His second appearance at the festival is with his new project, Wickes. Nothing to do with the DIY chain, all to do with the DIY brilliance of their songwriting.

The guitar is swapped for a keyboard, he's joined by his good friends Rob from the Voluntary Butler Scheme and H. Hawkline's Huw Evans. There's a half-drunk charm and unpretentious wit to Wickes' songs. Whereas Sweet Baboo charmed the audience into wanting to take him home last night, tonight they might be rather worried he'd empty the drinks cabinet and keep them up playing records scrounged from their record collection, letting the needle skate across prize vinyl.

They're great. But he can keep away from my Buddha.

Next band on are Bastions. There's no gap between the bands. It's like a sonic relay race. I haven't even had time for a Jimmy Riddle, let alone a Richard Gere. So, legs crossed and throat dry I attempt to introduce them. I say something about bus-stops and caves... I've no idea why.

Holy Moly!

Jeez Louise!




Honestly, not being able to cuss like a cuckolded sailor in these hallowed environs is a massive and embarrassing impediment. Because Bastions are all those little big bad words - simultaneously. So, imagine them scattered liberally throughout the next passage for it to accurately convey the awesomeness of what occurred. And that's the British use of 'awesome' rather than the American one, where the word is generally used to describe things so unawesome I'm hoping the Oxford English Dictionary will wage terrible war on all abusers until they stop, or are extinct.

Bastions exist between twilight genres of noise and fury. They're label-resistant. Try and affix a 'post hardcore' label to them and something darker and more metallic will blow the label off. Try and replace it with a 'dark metal' label and some strange shoegazey episode of seething ambience will do the same. Start writing 'seething ambience' on your rapidly shrinking pile of labels and all thunderous hell will break out, suddenly and with such fearsome physicality that the pen, the labels and your brain jelly will all get blown out through the circumflex of existence, leaving a damp puddle of awed-some in its place.

What they've learnt since the last time I saw them in May is poise. The vicious louds are balanced by long moments of stillness. Near silences that ooze and flutter like nightmarish parallel dimensions. The quiet-'er' bits are captivating, though. Jamie vocalist gathers himself for another Night Of The Hunter onslaught. Danny the drummer shakes the tension out of his muscles, walks to the front of the stage and videos the audience. He wanders back, takes a breath, another breath, then the silence is bludgeoned into ferrous hulks that batter our heads. Danny is the most physical drummer I've ever seen. His rhythm gives their noise its conviction and foundation. Vast. Bottomless. Like roots beneath mountains. Mantle vibrating.

There are folk next to me who say things like: "Who the hell are these? They're amazing!"; "Why haven't I heard of these before?" and "Wow!".

Yes, wow. And awesome.

Victorian English Gentlemens Club are well ensconced in their set by the time I pant my way to the drama studio. They're back to being a three-piece and I think it suits them greatly.

The rhythms and arrangements are more minimal, more seductive, almost... bluesier... especially on an amazing, scratchy version of Bored In Belgium. Attention to detail is paramount with Victorian English Gentlemens Club. The stage is decorated with pendants and a mannequin. An old timer like me is reminded of a dislocated episode of Sapphire and Steel.

I'm called to the other stage because a band have gone missing. By the time I get back, VEGC are playing their last note. A substantial, appreciative crowd applaud. I stand there cursing the responsibilities that drew me away. Still, I can immerse myself without distraction into the new album they're just finishing.

I see little of what happens subsequently on our stages. There is kit to remove, conversations to be had, remnants of riders to be rescued from foraging Drains.

The audience swells as the night progresses and the more well known bands visit us with their excellence. Veterans of Sŵn, Peggy Sue, bewitch with singular, mostly acoustic songs written under gloaming bowers. There's an anxious mystery to their music, strung-out beauty from outsiders condemned to peer in. Initially they remind me of Pooka, but where that duo had a self conscious strangeness to them , Peggy Sue's yawing, yearning fables are utterly convincing.

Young Legionnaire are skinny, cool and great. Paul's past in yourcodenameis:milo is more apparent than his present in The Automatic. This is splendid and rather spidery. Melodies burst out of the relative complexity of their music. There's a right impressive energy flooding off the stage. They're clearing loving it. So are the audience.

And that was that; our night at Sŵn Festival 2010, over. I make the dangerous assumption that that means the music is over for the night. Oh, country boy with your bumpkin, early-night expectations! A straggle of us head into town. We clamber the stairs in Dempseys a little rain-sodden. Just a pint of Guinness is all I'm after, craving repair from the iron and B vitamins contained therein.

Queuing at the bar I can hear a rather plaintive voice and a rather brave, unamplified acoustic guitar. Attempting to balladeer in a packed out pub on a Friday night strikes me as foolhardy. A couple of boorish folk shout at the bar without paying any heed or respect to the bloke with the guitar, who I still haven't seen yet. I crane my neck to get a sight of him. Oh, my! It's Pete flippin' Lawrie! What a pleasant surprise.

Fortunately he foregoes efforts to draw the audience in acoustically and rejoins a band on the stage to use a more effective form of aural communication: a.k.a. amplification.

His set is an unexpected delight. Seems that his soulful timbre and uplifting, blue-eyed folk/soul isn't to everyone's taste. But it is to mine. He knows how to write a song, does Pete. He's a craftsman of the heart. I loved it.

"You look well," he said when I tripped over to say "hello".

That's normally a euphemism for either "fat" or "drunk". Given that I've lost two stone since I last saw him, it has to be the latter.

The night ends with drizzly smokes on Womanby Street, more bonhomie than you'd get at a Disney convention, respect for Matt from The Keys and his yob-handling skills, and utter bewilderment that Ras Kwame's excellent DJ set hasn't drawn more people in. Huw Stephens is here. Rhodri Cyrion is here. Theston Cyrion is here. So, all is fine. I take my cardigan off and dance like a bad dream, wedding uncle.

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Mike Peters records track for Vinyl

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:55 UK time, Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Mike Peters, singer with The Alarm, has recorded a song as the theme song for the forthcoming film Vinyl.

As we've previously blogged, Vinyl is the story of the stunt in 2004 in which The Alarm recorded a song and released it under a pseudonym, got a fake band to front it, and released it to great acclaim.

Speaking to the North Wales Daily Post, Peters explained: "I was asked about writing the track for the film and I knew it had to be punchy and it had to have the conviction of being a hit.

"It had to be something that could be sung without any instruments on its own and had that communication between people.

"Within days I had written the song. I knew The Automatic were not far away, so I grabbed them and asked if they wanted to help and we did the first recording. It was done in Cardiff.

"It is being committed to the film."

There is no title as yet for the track.

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Sŵn Festival 2010

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James McLaren James McLaren | 13:33 UK time, Monday, 25 October 2010

Well another Sŵn Festival has been and gone for another year, and from what I hear, venues were packed across Cardiff for the dozens of leftfield acts that Huw Stephens and his Sŵn colleagues had hand-picked for the city-wide shindig.

Islet. Photo: Pippa Bennett

Islet. Photo: Pippa Bennett

No doubt in the next few days my co-bloggers Bethan Elfyn and Adam Walton will be putting pen to paper and waxing lyrical about their weekends, but for the time being I'd like to direct you to some great bits and pieces about Sŵn:

Please let us know how your Sŵn was, and be sure to add your photos to our Flickr group.

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Sŵn Festival day one

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 14:07 UK time, Friday, 22 October 2010

So, the first night of Sŵn Festival. I've bought new socks and underpants. I have eyedrops and bananas. I'm about as ready as a man can be for a long weekend of excellent music spread across Cardiff's most discerning music-friendly establishments.

This account will be a bit scattergun and somewhat rushed, but it will hopefully give you a real taste of the brilliant, peripatetic nature of Sŵn.

First up, at 6pm I go to collect my wristband at festival hub, Dempseys. Festival hub is Sŵn rhyming slang for 'damn good pub'. The hub is already brimful of friendly faces. Over there, in the corner, Martin Carr! He's tall and frowning. He wants to DJ but there are no sounds coming out. Some random speaker cable-fiddling, and a bit of the roadie's panacea (gaffa tape) later, and the sound of Stereolab's Ping Pong fills the room.

"Play some dub!" demands a man. The man is John from Llwybr Llaethog - Wales' Sugarhill Gang and Lee Scratch Perry rolled into two. We talk about Blaenau Ffestiniog. Which is random. Transpires we both recorded in the same studio there. He to much better effect, obviously.

Despite all the friendly faces in Dempseys, I'm here to see bands. Lots of bands. Huw 'Pooh' Williams drags me away from people I want to drink beer with because he knows I can be easily distracted from my task. If Odysseus had been as easily distracted, it would not have ended well for Penelope and Telemachus.

Huw is a veteran of city-wide festivals like this: In The City, SXSW and the like. Cleverly he's already perused the programme and formulated a plan of action.

"Let's go and see some bands we've never seen before!"

Good plan.

We start in Y Fuwch Goch. Drawn there in Huw Stephens' most excellent slipstream. Danish guy with beard, Dad Rocks, is a folkish sage, beautiful - kind of jazzy - and rather unusual fingerpicked guitar lines embellish songs of great, mellow heart. But we're off before we really get to know him and his music. I'll definitely seek out more.

Manchester's more industry-focused equivalent of Sŵn, In The City, are curating the stage at Undertone. Brown Brogues were one of the bands that got people most excited at In The City. Those industry tongues that still wag wagged with drooly gusto, by all accounts. There are two Brown Brogues: Mr Voice and Guitar, and Mr Big Drums. They're not really 'misters', though - they're so young! I feel like I should confiscate their beer.

They have distorted vocals and blues shapes ripped from a guitar and a Fender amp. So I'm thinking Black Keys, Jon Spencer, White Stripes and the whole blues tradition that preceded those bands. But their unaffected and enthusiastic vigour at these well-mined seams means that they create a new heat from the fuel that remains. Their blues bag is far from empty. I like them a lot.

From Undertone we scurry to the Model Inn. It's scuzzy in here in a good way. Interior designers haven't sacrificed its soul to Feng Shui or unnecessary soft-furnishings. Lesson No. 1 are hosting this venue tonight.

They've been bringing the best in leftfield punk and hardcore to Cardiff since 2004. They've also done much to encourage many of south Wales' finest DIY discordants. Their first band of the evening are Goodtime Boys.

Goodtime Boys are dramatic and impassioned. I don't get to hear enough to tell if they bring anything new to the hardcore equation. I'm not sure you're supposed to bring new things to equations. If something works, and balances, it's good for existence. So although Goodtime Boys sound pretty de rigeur, they also sound pretty damned good.

Sweet Baboo

Sweet Baboo

I've never seen Sweet Baboo sing his own songs before. I've watched him play bass for Spencer McGarry and Cate Le Bon. When he's not unwittingly inciting riots with PE students in Newport (an unexpected result of a recent appearance there) he writes the most wonderful, whimsical songs. Songs of such charm that he could play them on a toothbrush and bin lids and we'd swoon. He somehow manages to transform the top floor of Clwb Ifor Bach into everyone's front room with the warm homeliness of his songs. Loved it! Thank you, Steve. But yes, your mum was right about the tightness of those trousers.

Across the road we catch a tiny bit of Stagecoach (sounding good), and a morsel of Right Hand Left Hand (the top floor of Dempseys is rammed and the noodling we hear is too perplexing to hold all of our attention) - I'd love to hear a whole set of theirs. 'Whole sets' are a luxury we've made the choice to deny ourselves in favour of as many different artists as possible. This is the one moment when that strategy rather lets us down, I feel.

Sun Drums are very nice, if a bit too slight and tempered to draw me in. I tell Huw that we have to see Spectrals because I've very much enjoyed their recent single Peppermint. It proves to be a rare good recommendation. Their reverb-saturated pop reminds me, in many ways, of early Aztec Camera. There is a real deftness of touch to the songwriting. They're cute, gawky, and classically 'indie', before that term got rail-roaded and bastardised.

I hear timeless melodies spun from a lovelorn heart. Everyone who's watching is bewitched. We want to take them home with us. But it's not home time, yet. Nowhere near, it transpires.

"We have to go see Nedry," I tell Huw.


"They're dead good," I'm on a roll.

We walk miles (it feels) to Buffalo Bar and marvel at the racket being created outside by Oui Messy. A definite, unexpected highlight. They have the shouty dimension that many of Cardiff's guitar-toting bands have absorbed from walls in local rehearsal rooms. But they become much more interesting in between those bits.

Oui Messy

Oui Messy

There is flange and there are spacey, mini wig-outs. Bits of their set sounded like condensed Hawkwind. I'm pretty sure I'm not making this up. Very good. Definitely lots of promise, here.

I've never been to Cardiff Arts Institute before. But Nedry have drawn me here like a fat moth to a blinding luminescence. Festival co-founder John Rostron selected one of their tracks for a Sŵn preview show we did a few weeks back. It was my favourite of all the excellent music we played.



"Dubstep Bjork" was my soundbite reduction of their sound. Which proves to be pretty accurate. But they're so much more than that. Their set is truly outstanding. Two guys on guitar, laptops and drum pads, and a woman on singing and pedals. She is transfixing. A real star in the ascendant.

What initially appears to be quite noodly when we walk in becomes a hypnotic melange of dub bass, huge swells of sound, complex rhythms and her beguiling voice. I don't know how, what or why, I just know I could listen to her sing for the rest of time. None of the studied drama school melodrama of many singers. No hackneyed vocal mannerisms. Just emotion, subtle drama and great melodies. If I see anything as good over the rest of the weekend, I'll hop all the way home in a luminous pink, happy bunny suit.

Things get messy from here on in. That's probably to do with the social drinking. Attempted professionalism can only go so far. With me it's on a timer and it switches off automatically - whatever I try to do - at 11pm, except on Sunday nights.



I catch seminal intelligent punk band Bellinithrough the haze. The guy who's playing the guitar does so with a real mastery of the raw and the juggernaut: massive, clever riffs that carry impressive ideas across whole nations and cultures. Bloody brilliant.



Finally, upstairs in Dempseys, where it all started. Yucatan! So beautiful. So seductive. So like the mountains back home, in all their clouded majesty. I get tearful and a little homesick. Then I get a little real sick to balance the equation. Then I get wrestled. Then I get a taxi.

Now I'm going to get some breakfast.

Roll on day two.

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A new music collection society for Wales?

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James McLaren James McLaren | 13:57 UK time, Thursday, 21 October 2010

A couple of weeks ago BBC Wales News reported on discussions at a Welsh Music Foundation (WMF) seminar in Caernarfon. The debate centred on the ongoing issue of whether Welsh-language music would be better served by an independent, autonomous royalty collection society than the existing Performing Right Society (PRS).

I'll break down some of the themes involved here, as it's a hugely complex issue that merits some explanation.

What does a collection society do?

There are two copyrights in recorded music: the recording itself and the song. We're talking here about the copyright in the song. Whenever a song is performed publicly or broadcast or streamed, that counts as a use of the copyrighted work and therefore the songwriter is due a payment. In the early years of the 20th century the PRS - a non-profit organisation - was set up to ensure that this exploitation of the song copyright was logged as accurately as possible, and payments were made to the songwriters.

As the music industry evolved, it became the norm that a broadcaster (or for that matter, shops or venues) bought a licence from the PRS for the right to play the songs registered with them. The PRS would then redistribute the money, after taking costs, to the songwriters, often via their publishers.

Ideally, this would be a platform for the accurate remuneration of songwriters whose works are played and broadcast, as the PRS employs a number of formulae to assess the amount of times each individual work has been played in a given time period. However - and this is where potential problems arise - there is only so much accuracy a finite organisation can achieve. There's a lot of guesswork involved; in the distribution of royalties there's significant guesswork involved.

What is particular to the Welsh-language music scene?

Until 2007, the PRS employed a formula that integrated BBC Radio Cymru's playlist into data gathered from a group of 50 local and regional radio stations, plus venues. Playlist data was averaged and payments were made accordingly. The inadvertent effect of this method was to over-estimate massively the number of times Welsh-language music was being played across the UK. In fact, the level of accuracy was less than 1%. Radio Cymru was the major outlet for Welsh-language music, and it was simply not being played anywhere else in the UK with the exception of a little on BBC Radio Wales and S4C.

In 2007 the PRS took the decision to address this anomaly. Since then, Welsh-language PRS members have seen an overall drop of about 90% - or almost £1.8 million - in their royalty payments as now it is Radio Cymru, BBC Radio Wales and S4C which provide the sole plays for their repertoire.

What was the response?

A few of the major players in the Welsh-language music scene formed an ad hoc collective - the Welsh Music Publishers and Composers Alliance - to combat this reduction and to raise with the PRS the impact their changes had made. As a result, the PRS was convinced to phase in the changes over three years, ameliorating to some extent the severity of the revenue cut.

In addition, the School of Music at Bangor University undertook a study called Building New Business Strategies for the Music Industry in Wales, which recommended a feasibility study be undertaken into the setting-up of an autonomous and independent licensing and collection society.

The resultant feasibility study was funded by the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) who asked the influential composers and publishers organisation Y Gynghrair to put the report out to tender.

The report, titled An assessment of the feasibility of establishing an independent music licensing and royalties collections agency for Wales, was authored by Deian ap Rhisiart and Arwel Elis Owen (now interim chief executive of S4C), working for Cambrensis Communications.

What did the report say?

Ap Rhisiart and Owen outlined a series of arguments - both financial and cultural - for a shift in the whole methodology for distributing royalties to Welsh-based songwriters.

Some of the main points they raised:

  • "A national music licensing and royalties body may... help kick-start a music economy based on a successful publishing and recording industry."
  • The BBC negotiates blanket licence agreements with the PRS centrally, meaning BBC Wales "is not enthusiastic for any change in the current licensing system".
  • Music played on Radio Cymru gets a fee of 47 pence a minute, as it is part of the PRS's UK-wide formula that sees the channel in the same bracket as BBC local radio services in England.
  • If Radio Cymru were to be on a national DAB slot, the fee would rise to £4.71 a minute - at least until the digital switchover.
  • Radio in Wales, especially commercial stations, as a whole has moved away from Wales-based music to 'Anglo-American' repertoire, "thus bringing few economic benefits to local musicians".
  • When Ireland's Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) broke away from PRS, income from licensing increased for local musicians.
  • "Every collection society in Europe and worldwide are a member of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC)... This would mean an independent Welsh agency would then have direct representation on the international body, raising the international profile of Welsh music."

This is a highly condensed list, but you can read the whole report here.

The authors point repeatedly to a perceived lack of will to change or improve:

"It was the tone of the responses by many of our contributors that convinced us that a strategic shift was needed in attitudes to the music scene. There is no reason for the UK licensing agencies or the broadcasters in Wales to change the current arrangements. They are mutually content with the corporate blanket agreements. They express concern at the resulting situation but are not disposed to change the licensing arrangements or editorial priorities to improve the impact of their public funding on the Welsh music economy."

What is the PRS's response?

The PRS itself has responded strongly against the possibility of an independent Wales-based collection society.

"PRS for Music will always look to serve all of its members based in Wales and is proud to do so," they told me. "We will assist those involved with the analysis of the feasibility of a specific Welsh collection society, purely for Welsh language members and restricted to negotiating broadcast royalties as outlined in the report. However, PRS for Music does not believe this will benefit Welsh music, does not believe it has the support of the entire Welsh writer membership and strongly contends that the economics and complexities of starting a new collection society would be prohibitive to its creation."

What are those complexities?

A Welsh collection society would model itself on the IMRO system, whereby it acts like a independent body, accurately gauging plays of music across Welsh music broadcasters, having a reciprocal agreement with PRS through CISAC and distributing royalties. However, Wales is not politically or culturally devolved entirely from the rest of the UK.

The BBC has a blanket licence with the PRS centrally, not devolved to BBC Wales. Hence, while the BBC's PRS licence takes care of IMRO's members through CISAC, I'd imagine that the BBC would require both a licence with the PRS and the new Wales-only society. It has a duty to deliver content to Radio Cymru, and would have to buy the appropriate licence for that repertoire.

If the new society was to choose not to act as an Wales-only independent body and instead act in parallel with the PRS representing its members in the UK as a devolved body, it would require a close and mature in-house arrangement between both bodies in the UK. Although initially the plan for the new society would be to concentrate on broadcasters, in future years it could choose to address pubs, clubs, venues and other commercial outlets playing music, and this potentially could provide a problem, as this dual-society system is unprecedented.

So, either the society will exist inside CISAC as a independent organisation and experience those inherent problems, or it acts as a UK organisation and run into a separate set of problems.

The take-up or interest in this issue is debated. Y Gynghrair have 400 stakeholders on their database, of whom a small percentage attend meetings. The PRS estimates that it has around 2,000 songwriters in Wales. It may be that there's a small number of regularly-played artists on Radio Cymru who have seen their income fall dramatically, but the majority have seen a more minimal impact from the PRS royalty reassessment. Is there the appetite for a large-scale revolution in licences and collections?

Where now?

Y Gynghrair is holding an open general meeting on 7 November to discuss the issue and the report. Depending on the outcome of that report, it may be that an independent collection society will move to being discussed by WAG and its advisory boards. From then, who knows? But one thing this debate may achieve in the longer term is an awareness of the frailty of the PRS's monitoring systems.

It seems that all parties are aware that improvements in the current system would be desirable. A new collection agency would address some of those issues but would create its own problems, legally and logistically.

I emphasise again that this is - believe it or not - a highly condensed examination of just some of the main issues, but it's a very important topic for Wales and its music. The decisions made about it have concrete knock-on effects for music here, whichever way it goes. We'll keep you updated.

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Stephanie Finnegan/Son Capson/Polly Mackey - Aberystwyth Students' Union

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 13:44 UK time, Thursday, 21 October 2010

I want to live in Aberystwyth. It's either the romantic in me speaking, or the drunk. The romantic in me is besotted with its bipolar, Twin-Peaks-by-the-sea ambience.

Somehow it's managed to sit itself above a beach, gather up a beautiful Georgian seafront in pastel shades that make my soul flutter, and all this (mostly) without the shameless tack that pollutes most UK seaside resorts. The one eyesore I saw was the pier. And the pier is the reason the drunk in me is drawn to Aberystwyth. It's open until other people go to work. And the following day it has mildly hallucinogenic effects that make you think typing 'eyesore I saw' is witty and clever.

But Aberystwyth is a four letter word of a drive away from almost every other part of the UK. Even the bits closest to it. I'm here to DJ an Oxjam event at the university students' union. I leave home thinking it'll take me two hours. It takes me three. I see red kites, pickups flip themselves onto their roofs, someone breakdancing outside a Chinese restaurant in Welshpool and all of the wrong roads in Aber's befuddling one-way system.

I arrive at the union bar late and harassed. No need to worry, though, because the decks haven't turned up, yet. I'm DJing and I've convinced myself that I've been asked to play lots of old, crap vinyl so that I could go out and buy lots of old and crap vinyl in the run up to tonight.

Fortunately for the poor people of the world, I'm not the only attraction on offer. The promoter - Matty - has assembled an intriguing bill of live music.

First up we get woken out of our lethargy by Stephanie Finegan. She's like getting hit by a lightning bolt of LIFE, 150,000 volts of SeizeTHISMomentWithPoetryPassionAndDon'tMessWithMe-ness. It has to be written like that, all together, because with Stephanie it all comes in a rush. There are no gaps between the sparks.

But that's no problem because these are great sparks. She plays odd chords on a guitar, sings ace songs that route life through a circuit of acute observation, great swearing and subroutines of did-she-really-just-say-that humour. She's a steam train of ideas and the audience is tied to the tracks. In some parallel universe, Janis Joplin and John Cooper Clarke had a child. Stephanie is that child.

Quite a start to the night. Except it wasn't the start to the night. I was, playing Jean Jacques Perrey, Kraftwerk and what I think is highbrow obscura off compilations of German Electronische Musik. I'm so desperate to be pretentious but can't even manage precious half the time. I think Vanilla Fudge will be a good idea before the next artist. I have no idea why.

Son Capson is mostly Liam Percy George. That's not to do down the contribution of the erstwhile and excellent drummer and bass player. But Liam's Badly Drawn Boy Drawn Badly In a Concave Mirror presence is our focus. He sounds nothing like Badly Drawn Boy. But he does have a bobble hat and an innocent face that belies the turbulence in his music. Quite how Cossack rhythms and mentalist vim got riveted to songs about snipers on the roof of Tesco, I don't know. I should ask him, I suppose.

The crowd do dancing. Son Capson are ace. Unique, funny, rollercoasting, surreal and - hopefully - not destined to be overlooked because they don't fit, at all, into the most easily assimilated holes. Hello Sigmund.

I think I play some Ike and Tina Turner and Julie Driscoll, maybe a bit of Studio One reggae, then knock my box of records off the stage so that they spill everywhere. Imagine a blindfolded octopus trying to juggle eels.

Polly Mackey and the Pleasure Principle are on next, and last. They're from Wrexham and have a single coming out on Playground on the 7 November. They make moody, anthemic guitar music. They've improved so much since I last saw them in May. Back then I thought they had a great sound but too few songs. This time the balance is much better.

Polly is an assured and captivating presence. If I was 17 years old, and either male or female, I think I'd fall in love with her in 15 seconds flat, because she sounds like she's singing right into the centre of my heart. The angst is the right side of moving rather than indulgent. The songs have bigger tunes than they did. They all play with great guile and taste. There's none of the 'what the hell is this?' sense I had watching Stephanie or Son Capson - but I could easily imagine Polly's songs tumbling out of a million pairs of headphones in a million hall of residence heads. Deffo.

It's unlikely much of my very short post-Polly set will register in anyone's heads. I wait outside in a wind so chill I think tectonics have moved us to the Artic Circle since the start of the night. Then I end up in the Pier. Oh, Aber, you're so good it's just plain bad for me.

Terfel bemoans Faenol's lack of spark

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James McLaren James McLaren | 12:54 UK time, Thursday, 21 October 2010

Opera star Bryn Terfel has told the north Wales Daily Post that he regrets he "can't get over the disappointment" of the Faenol Festival's lack of success that resulted in its cancellation this year.

Bryn Terfel

Bryn Terfel

Terfel says that there will be no festival next year, but it may return in the future.

He blamed the economic downturn for the slow ticket sales for both Westlife and Al Murray. "There won't be anything next year. I can't get over the disappointment. I prefer people to see the loss of the festival rather than try again and possibly fail again.

"I was disappointed; very disappointed. I thought we had four strong nights from an artistic point of view.

"The operatic night was going to one of the best and Al Murray can sell out the O2 Arena within hours, 18,000 tickets, but we only sold 160 tickets for the Faenol. It didn't spark here."

The festival had financial support from Universal Music Classical Management and Productions, Welsh Assembly Government and Gwynedd Council after it was cancelled in 2008 following financial difficulties.

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Ten years of collaboration for Welsh orchestras

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James McLaren James McLaren | 12:06 UK time, Thursday, 21 October 2010

Tomorrow night sees the culmination of celebrations marking 10 years of collaboration between the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the National Youth Orchestra of Wales (NYOW).

Youthful Promise is a concert being held at Cardiff's St David's Hall and features Strauss' Don Juan, Mathias' Piano Concerto No. 3 and Brahms' Symphony No. 1.

The concert will be recorded and can be heard on BBC Radio Wales at 8pm on Sunday 24 October, or BBC Radio 3 on 1 November (time TBC).

Tickets can be obtained from BBC National Orchestra of Wales Audience Line on 0800 052 1812.

NYOW is the world's oldest national youth orchestra and works to bring talented young musicians (around 115 at any one time) between the ages of 13 and 21 into a world in which they can be guided, tutored and mentored by established stars of the classical world in Wales.

Suzanne Hay, education and community manager of NOW said: "Our collaboration with the NYOW has gone from strength to strength. Over the past 10 years we have worked with more than 500 young people from the NYOW and the students have gained a unique insight into the daily life of professional performers.

"This opportunity for such talented and committed young musicians has given vital encouragement to Wales' next musical generation".

Video: The Joy Formidable - Austere

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James McLaren James McLaren | 14:32 UK time, Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Following on from yesterday's upload of I Don't Want To See You Like This, we've got another exclusive video from The Joy Formidable's session for Bethan Elfyn's Saturday night rock show.

You can watch an exclusive acoustic performance here of their song Austere. Listen to Bethan's show on 23 October on BBC Radio Wales, or on BBC iPlayer.

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Sŵn seminars

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:33 UK time, Wednesday, 20 October 2010

One of the things I used to enjoy very much when I attended In The City in Manchester was the seminars and discussions during the day. Slightly hungover, sitting and listening to industry experts talking about the pertinent issues of the day - it was great.

I still remember in 2003 every seminar was covering how important MySpace was to musicians; how things change.

This weekend's Sŵn Festival is getting in on the act with daytime seminars on Friday and Saturday. They're in partnership with Welsh Music Foundation, are held at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff, and are free.

Here's what they say about each session:

Friday 22 October

Live Music: What needs to change?
A gathering of promoters, managers, agents, artists and venues among others, from across Wales and beyond, encouraging you to share any opinions, barriers you may have faced locally or nationally and any thoughts on how the live scene could work more effectively.

Going live!
Do you work in live music... or want to? Are you in a band, looking to play more live shows? Trying to meet agents? Play at festivals? Find out where and when to play, how to identify and reach an audience, and how to retain a fan-base to grow future shows.

Ignite Cardiff
For Ignite Cardiff at Sŵn, quirky, short presentations already lined up include one-hit wonders, music t-shirts, Bollywood and a whole host of other musical treats from local musicians, web-heads and even Radio One DJ Huw Stephens.

Saturday 23 October

Ballad of Britain: The Welsh Chapter
Will Hodgkinson is a journalist, whose writing can be read in Mojo, The Times and The Guardian regularly, and an author with three books published. His latest, Ballad Of Britain, is a beautiful book looking at the history of folk music in the British Isles and seeing where it's at now, and documents Will's making of field recordings in an attempt to capture the spirit of the place and its people.

Music and the Mythic Image - Richard Parfitt
Music lecturer, solo artist, manager, former 60ft Doll, Richard J Parfitt has been of the music industry in various roles from the mid 80s. He's sold over a million records, co-written with Duffy, played all the major festivals and is currently senior lecturer in commercial music at Bath Spa University.

Lamacq's Mail Sack
At this special event, broadcasting legend Steve Lamacq returns to Sŵn Festival and goes through a week's worth of post, opening everything from unsolicited demos to the latest major releases and listens to them with you. A rare and surprising glimpse into how Lamacq - the nation's tastemaker's mind works. This is not to be missed.

You can reserve places by emailing

The Stand - I'll Be There

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James McLaren James McLaren | 13:34 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

This Sunday the charts could feature a song based on the oldest football chant still sung on terraces in the UK.

The Stand - I'll Be There

The Stand - I'll Be There

I'll Be There is a fund-raising single by The Stand, which is a supergroup of sorts which features the talents of London-based Welsh actor Jonathan Owen, Catatonia's Owen Powell, Super Furry Animals' Guto Pryce and Funeral For A Friend's Ryan Richards.

Richards replaced Stuart Cable in the line-up following the death of the former Stereophonics drummer in June.

I'll Be There is a reworking of a Cardiff City FC fan favourite, which has its origins in the General Strike of 1926. Proceeds from the single are going to a fund to erect a statue of City legend Fred Keenor at the ground.

I caught up with Jonathan Owen today to discuss the single, released yesterday.

Has the interest in the song surprised you at all?

"Yes it's been fantastic. The whole point was to get as much publicity to a great cause and it's job done. The trust has already raised £30,000 which is amazing. We've got a long way to go but we can do it."

Who do you think will enjoy it? Not just CCFC fans I presume!

"I think it's got a Celtic Punk feel. Owen and I spoke a lot about The Pogues and The Faces... just having a laugh with it and make it sing along. We kept it the same pace and key as the fans sing it and we were delighted to do a song that was specific to south Wales and Cardiff City fans. In these days of 'global culture' it's important we keep our heritage too."

When Stuart died, did you consider abandoning the project?

"We did. He was a great lad. Nothing sums him up better than when I asked him not only did he say 'yes' instantly but organised one of the best studios in the country for nothing. We've dedicated it too him and he is dearly missed."

How excited are you about this Sunday's chart rundown?

"Haha! Well it's not for another Sunday but to be honest I'll be happy if it charts. As long as it gets some positive publicity and raises a few bob I'll be a happy man."

What does the song mean to you personally?

"It means a lot. My grandfather as a boy went to Ninian Park on the '27 Cup Winning run and remember them singing it. The fact that we are doing it for a Cardiff City legend, a Somme veteran, who took them all the way that year is fantastic.

"The support we've had from the club but most off the fans has been incredible. Cardiff City fans get a bad rep sometimes but here they are digging deep in tough times to honour a local boy who was one of the greatest sportsmen of the 20th century. Amen the that."

Stuart Cable: coroner records accidental death

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James McLaren James McLaren | 13:00 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

An inquest held today into the death of Stuart Cable has recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Stuart Cable. Photo: John Pountney

The coroner recorded the verdict after hearing that Cable had drunk heavily for a few days before his death, and choked on his own vomit.

The outpouring of public emotion after his death in June was huge, and we collated tributes to him from the public.

Well-known figures in music, including his former bandmate Kelly Jones, also paid tribute.

Bryn Terfel's White Christmas with Bing Crosby

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:45 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

It's one of the best-known Christmas singles of all time, and one of the best sellers too, but now White Christmas is getting a touch of Welsh operatic magic courtesy of Bryn Terfel.

Bryn Terfel

Bryn Terfel

Read the BBC Wales news story here.

Terfel shares his record company with the late Bing Crosby and, thanks to some production wizardry, the Welsh tenor will duet with the crooner on the single. A video has already been shot for it, and bookies are offering odds of 6-1 on it being this year's Christmas Number One.

Terfel is releasing the single to promote his forthcoming album Christmas Songs, to be released by Deutsche Grammophon. The label is part of Universal Music, which owns the rights to Crosby's recording.

It is the first version of the song featuring Crosby's vocals since it was recorded for the film Holiday Inn in 1942. The single will be released on 13 December.

Terfel and Crosby are far from the first people to duet with one of them singing from beyond the mortal plane. Nat King Cole and his daughter Natalie sang Unforgettable in the 1990s, a song which, no, I have no recollection of whatsoever.

Likewise, the parent-child dynamic was replicated in 1989 by Hanks Sr and Jr of the Williams family for There's A Tear In My Beer, and yet again with Elvis and Lisa-Marie Presley on In The Ghetto in 1997.

The Beatles raided the tapes for Free As A Bird and Real Love in the 1990s, which featured John Lennon on vocals and piano. Hip hop has given us The Notorious B.I.G. and P Diddy, Eminem and Obie Trice all appearing on It Has Been Said in 2005.

Fugees warbler Lauryn Hill gave her voice to Bob Marley's Chant Down Babylon in 1999. Loony narcotics fan Billie Holiday was resurrected for a duet with Tony Bennett on God Bless This Child in 1997, 38 years after her death.

Rat-packer Dean Martin's song Ain't That A Kick In The Head featured the questionable vocal talents of actor Kevin Spacey in 2007. And in a meeting of the sublime and ridiculous, Louis Armstrong was joined by Kenny G on his iconic What A Wonderful World.

Lastly, Patsy Cline was joined by country gruff Willie Nelson in 1999 on Life's Railway To Heaven.

Have we missed out any notable gravedigging duets? 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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Video: The Joy Formidable - I Don't Want To See You Like This

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:30 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Hotly tipped Welsh trio The Joy Formidable swung by Broadcasting House in Cardiff this month to record an exclusive session and a bit of a chat for Bethan Elfyn's Saturday night rock show.

You can watch an exclusive acoustic performance here of their single I Don't Want To See You Like This. Listen to Bethan's show on 23 October on BBC Radio Wales, or on BBC iPlayer.

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I Am Austin/Mother Of Six/We Shiver - Telfords Warehouse, Chester

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 13:48 UK time, Monday, 18 October 2010

The Manics are playing in Manchester tonight. I haven't seen them since Reading in 1997. And although I've rarely been moved by their music (since queuing to buy Generation Terrorists from Probe in Liverpool back before you were born, possibly) I feel a real urge to reacquaint myself with them.

What I've heard of their new album sounds good. Music Box's Mark Foley - fundamental dancing cog in Cardiff's musical ecosystem - is doing something terribly important as part of their crew, and he owes me a beer. I owe him 10. The draw towards Manchester is very strong. But I have an Open University assignment to get in, and I'm on a promise to attend I Am Austin's EP launch in my local.

So, I forget about Manchester, get my head stuck into using schemata, mental images and concepts as techniques to improve memory and surface from the psychology textbook in time to scarper from the house and see the first band.

Although this is technically I Am Austin's EP launch, the event has been scuppered somewhat by news that their label has folded. So, the ageing radio presenter who had been invited to host the night and introduce the band is no longer required, but the gig - with a small line-up change - goes on regardless.

The slight change of circumstances might explain why attendance is, like Liverpool's chances of maintaining their Premier League status, on the thin side. Telfords Warehouse is where I work when I'm not gabbing on the radio. My (much younger and attractive) friends work here. I've seen so many great, life-changing musicians here I couldn't begin to list them. But scuzzy noise doesn't fit well in its high-ceilinged environs.

I put Mclusky on in here almost a decade ago. More white wine spritzers were hastily abandoned while they soundchecked than when the building was ravaged by a sudden Saturday evening fire at the turn of the millennium. I saw Swansea's Suns Of Thunder empty the building through sheer force of volume. No, Telfords has all the punk rock credentials of, well, me actually.

First band We Shiver's crepuscular skitter through the tattered edges of Gothic indie sounds more Bombay Bicycle Club than Birthday Party, more Interpol than Joy Division. They're a very new band. There are interesting ideas here - but it's ragged and unrehearsed. They're not helped by a very unforgiving sound. The bass is pretending it's a wasp farting through a kazoo. From up on my (over-used to the point of lame-ness) high horse, I'd suggest they barricade themselves in the nearest rehearsal room for a month or pack it in. There's potential here. But, as the man with the pencil behind his ear said surveying my half-rotten roof the other day: 'it needs work'.

We Shiver

We Shiver

Mother Of Six are a different matter entirely. After a faltering start, their proggish stoner rock draws a crowd to the dance floor. They triumph despite the fact that they exude more diffidence per square inch than a singularity of teenage hormones.

Mother Of Six

Mother Of Six

Quite what we've done to make all but the drummer and one of the guitarists turn their back to us, I don't know. But by denying us faux stage amiability and 'performance' they make the music the focus of our attention.

And it is worthy of that attention. Sabbath, Can, Kyuss and Neu! are some of the reference points that light up on my mental music map. Mother Of Six are pretty unique for up here. Their Welsh soulmates would be the likes of the aforementioned Suns Of Thunder and Zonderhoof. Might be time for a couple of gig swaps. Probably not in this venue, though.

I Am Austin are a two-piece from Connah's Quay (drums, synth pad and vox: Mitch; super distorted bass, pedals and synth: Adam) who have earned the patronage of Radio 1, Channel 4 (Evo Music Rooms) and ME! I know which they're proudest of. But that hasn't stopped me from coming to see them anyway.

I Am Austin

I Am Austin

Seeing them for the first time in Telfords is probably a mistake, though. If ever a band were perfect for creating an unholy whirlwind through the nation's darkest and dingiest venues, it's I Am Austin. There are no troughs in their sound, no concessions to dynamics. They're Loudness War personified, a waveform that has been flattened at +12dB. And if it annoys you, granddad, then that's the point, isn't it? Mother Of Six would have had the 40-something music people who more frequently populate Telfords on a weekday night nodding along in approval, reminiscing about Hawkwind at Glastonbury when there wasn't a fence and you could get free milk. I Am Austin would have those self-same heads shaking, tutting, complaining about 'noise' and it not being 'proper music', utterly unaware of the irony in what they were saying.

I thought it was thrilling and clever. Loud/quiet is such an over-used trope, anyway. Best to be loud/more loud/louder still/loud with a slightly different bass distortion/then, to end, loud with clanking sounds from drum synth pads.

There are songs here. And there are more dynamics than I'm letting on. I'm using my own verbal Loudness War to hammer home a point.

The track that really stands out, though, is the one that starts off relatively quietly with two-fingered synth chords before hurrying into some DFA, drum'n'bass meltdown that demonstrates once the happy fury of youth has subsided, slightly, this band will have extra special ideas - and a unique approach - to take us all to new, fascinating places.

And they're unlikely to do a duet with Alison Krauss on Jools Holland. Your opinion of them will be in direct proportion to how much of a good thing you think that is.

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Dame Joan Sutherland

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Cardiff Singer Cardiff Singer | 17:20 UK time, Friday, 15 October 2010

It is with great sadness that the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition learns of the death of its patron, dramatic coloratura soprano Dame Joan Sutherland, OM, AC, DBE, on 10 October 2010, at the age of 83.

Ekaterina Scherbachenko and Dame Joan Sutherland

Ekaterina Scherbachenko and Dame Joan Sutherland

Dame Joan had a long friendship with Cardiff Singer, serving on five consecutive juries from 1993. She then became the competition's first patron in 2003, and is shown here on her last appearance on the St David's Hall stage, presenting the trophy to 2009 winner Ekaterina Scherbachenko.

Her master classes were eagerly anticipated by singers and audience alike, and Dame Joan could always be relied upon to deliver forthright and down-to-earth views on singing and stagecraft to those competitors selected to benefit from her wisdom and experience.

Over the last few years, Dame Joan appeared increasingly frail but would not miss attending her favourite event. Her health had deteriorated further following a fall in her garden in Switzerland in 2008 when she broke both legs, but she still insisted on walking unaided onto the platform for the final announcement and prize-giving in 2009. She would always greet all the finalists warmly and also enjoyed the appreciation of the Cardiff audience.

Anna Williams, administrator of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, remembers her: "Dame Joan was such a loyal supporter of this event, always keen to encourage young singers but also to get across the message that success came from a great deal of hard work and dedication.

"She very much enjoyed coming to Cardiff, mainly I believe because although she was recognised here, the people did not hassle her. She was sad when the David Morgan department store closed as store closed as she loved to shop for shoes there.

"Dame Joan supported the competition as jury member and patron over the last seventeen years. I found her a great pleasure to work with and she will be greatly missed by all involved with this competition."

Dame Joan's standing in the opera world was perhaps rivalled only in greatness by that of Maria Callas in the twentieth century. The young Joan Sutherland's rise to fame started in her native Australia, but she shot to international stardom with her performance of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1959. Read Graeme Kay's appreciation on the BBC Radio 3 blog or see and hear an audio slideshow of some of Dame Joan Sutherland's finest moments.

The competition sends its condolences to Dame Joan's husband, Richard Bonynge, who himself served on the jury in 2009, and their son and grandchildren.

Should an album be £1?

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:35 UK time, Friday, 15 October 2010

This morning BBC News reports a call by a leading record industry figure that the cost of an album should drop to £1. But is this a sensible course for the industry to take?

Rob Dickins, who was head of Warner Music from 1983 until 1998, suggested at In The City in Manchester that if record labels slashed the cost of long players to just £1 they would see massively increased sales. This, he says, would offset the loss of revenue per unit.

He advocates a 'micro economy' in which music fans would buy many more units for far lower prices.

Dickins said: "If you're a fan of REM and you've got 10 albums and there's a new album coming out, you've got to make that decision about whether you want it or not.

"If we lived in a micro-economy, that wouldn't be a decision. You'd just say 'I like REM' and you'd buy it."

The biggest selling albums could sell 200 million copies, he believes, when last year's biggest seller, I Dreamed A Dream by Susan Boyle sold eight million. As a ballpark figure, an artists might expect to get about £1 per album sold at the moment. Let's say if an album retails for £1, the artist might expect 10p. If Dickins is right, and an album sold 200 million copies, they'd see £20 million.

So that sounds all right doesn't it? Well, the rest of the record industry will resist downward pressure on unit prices. Chris Cooke, editor of music industry newsletter CMU, predicted that the major labels would "resist it hugely".

"It is a gamble," he said. "Once you've slashed the price of an album you can't really go back. It's a big risk and the record companies will resist it. But he's not alone, outside the record companies, in saying perhaps that is the future."

I believe instinctively in music as art, and should have a value that reflects that status. However, a CD or a download is a copy, not an original. You'd have to fork out millions to buy a van Gogh original, but you can buy a postcard of Sunflowers for less than a pound. It might not be strictly analogous, but maybe music should be viewed as a cheaper commodity than we're used to.

When I worked in a record shop in the 1990s a full-price CD was anything up to £16, with usual prices around the £13 or £14 mark. But in the past 15 years prices have gone steadily downwards as major supermarkets and online retailers have come to the fore. Now albums are almost seen as loss-leaders; a mere promotional item for the core revenue generators of live music and merchandising.

The partnerships between artists and newspapers for free album give-aways are an indication of the way things are going and it's difficult to argue - as N-Dubz manager Jonathan Shalit does - that music is "a valuable form of art. If you want the person to respect it and value it, it's got to cost... a significant sum of money".

If the cost of an album does collapse to £1 or so, I'm sure more people will buy them - therefore obtaining music legally - and it's obviously better for artists to be paid a small part of something rather than nothing. Whether 200 million people would find the strength to fork out for Susan Boyle's new opus is another matter entirely.

What do you think of Rob Dickins' idea? Would you buy more albums if they were £1? 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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Charlotte Church on Radio Wales

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:33 UK time, Thursday, 14 October 2010

This morning Charlotte Church joined Jamie and Louise on Radio Wales for a frank chat about her music, her career and her family life.

Charlotte Church with Jamie Owen and Louise Elliott

Charlotte Church with Jamie Owen and Louise Elliott

Promoting her new, self-released album Back To Scratch, Charlotte was joined in the studio by her three-year-old daughter Ruby, who chipped in with some thoughts of her own.

Listen to Charlotte talking about her music career, and what she said to George W Bush when he asked what state Wales was in, here:

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Adam Walton playlist and show info: Sunday 10 October 2010

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 11:58 UK time, Wednesday, 13 October 2010

This week's three-hour runaround of the best Welsh music to bless my inbox fair busts at the seams with ace sounds. I'm particularly proud to have a storming 3 song session from Llanelli's Cut Ribbons. Their insistent boy/girl vocals really make their fine songs stand out. Give them a shout on MySpace if you enjoy them. Bands like that kind of thing and don't get it half often enough.

Listen again to the show.

Elsewhere, godfather of the Welsh underground, Alan Holmes, brings up some bright pop from his trawl of North Wales' musical past. Have you heard Igam Ogam? If you haven't, I think you'll enjoy their idiosyncratic take on the synth pop of the 1980s. The Rhosneigr '80s synth pop scene isn't well documented. Let Alan redress the balance somewhat.

Lara Catrin translates Colorama's Dere Mewn for us. A beautiful heartwarming song well worth clutching to your hearts for the winter months ahead.

Ben 'Soundhog' Hayes finishes things off excellently with a large ladle of Memphis Soul Stew.

And we have over 40 prime pieces of Welsh music from all over the country to inspire, intrigue and delight you.

Please send your demos as high quality .mp3s to:

Or post them to: Adam Walton, BBC Radio Wales, Library & Arts Centre, Rhosddu Rd., WREXHAM LL11 1AU

Finally, if you have any release dates or key Welsh music events you'd like me to include in the Welsh Music Calendar ( ) , please send your info to: and I will add it at the first opportunity I get.

Thank you/diolch yn fawr iawn,

Have an excellent music-filled week,


PLEASE NOTE: there is a technical issue with this week's show. Due to a partial line failure between Wrexham and Cardiff, we only broadcast on one channel (of the stereo pair). This means that although the music is still excellent, some tracks aren't heard at their absolute best. We apologise for this inconvenience. Our technicians are working to solve the problem in time for the next programme.

Y NIWL (Llanrwst) Deg

THE HOLY COVES (Holyhead) Droner (radio Edit)

CUT RIBBONS (Llanelli) When Will The Water (session Version)

ATTACK ATTACK (Caerphilly/Aberdare) Nemesis

KUTOSIS (Cardiff) Islands (Conformist Remix)

COLORAMA (Benllech) Candy Street

ADJUSTMENT TEAM VS S.K.O. (Cardiff) Believe This

ZWOLF (Cardiff) This Means War

THE ARTERIES (Swansea) Acoustic Associations

STRAIGHT LINES (Pontypridd) Say It For Your Sake

THE JOY FORMIDABLE (Mold) I Don't Want To See You Like This

ISLET (Cardiff) Ringerz

THE MOLES (Cardiff label) Future Sound Of Ashton

IGAM OGAM (Bangor) Cymer Fi

BROOKE (Morriston) Softest Touch

PETE LAWRIE (Penarth) In The End

ALEX DINGLEY (Llansteffan) Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea

KID CROCHET (Cardiff) Who Do You Think You Are Kidding?

THE MODERN FAREWELL (Cardiff) Where I Stand

CULPRIT 1 (Newport) Juhyo

MICE GIRLS (Cardiff) Clothes

YR ODS (Gwynedd) Paid Anghofio Paris

THE MILK RACE (Cardiff) You'll Never Win

GARDENING (Llanfairfechan) Resting On A Planet

DD DENHAM (Llanidloes) Rhyfel

CERI FROST (Cardiff) All That Money Can Buy

CUT RIBBONS (Llanelli) Knock Me Down (session Track)

SOPHIE MAC (Pembrokeshire) Apples

SOPHIE MAC (Pembrokeshire) Christopher

SOLUTIONS (Cardiff) Ghost Writer

CHAPARRAL ANDREW HODGES (Rhoshirwaun) Morbius (extract)

ROB LEAR (Blackwood) A Million Stars

PETE HICKMAN (Wrexham) The Master

PLYCI (Rhyl) Slut

JO BARTLETT Frozen In Time

COLORAMA (Benllech) Dere Mewn

PORTALS (Swansea) Curtain Times

EMMY'S UNICORN (Swnasea) Kate

DRAINS (Cardiff) Sports Illustrated

TRWBADOR (Camarthenshire/Cwmbran) Off Beat

HAIL THE PLANES (Cardiff) Brother

CUT RIBBONS (Llanelli) Lighting Our Sins (session Track)

LOUIS JORDAN Memphis Soul Stew (live)

Ketch A Vibe: diversifying a career

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:18 UK time, Wednesday, 13 October 2010

One of the people with whom I have had repeated discussions in the past year about music and the business of making money is Cardiff's Claire Simone. She's a jazz and soul singer with almost two decades' experience and a lot of fans including BBC 6 Music's Craig Charles.

Good friends, good reputation and a pair of powerfully smoky lungs isn't enough though, and she's vocal about the problems she has making a living out of her music. Read her blog entry 'The seemingly impossible dream to be able to earn a living through making music'.

But she's ever-positive, and she's doing something that musicians are being advised to look into these days: diversifying. Conventionally, this might be to 'open up revenue streams' - self-publish, go into promoting, that kind of thing - but it doesn't have to be.

Simone has turned a passion for music into an internet radio show that has given her an outlet for playing tracks she loves, and also - in a round-about fashion - increased her own profile.

Aja And Claire's Ketch A Vibe is the brainchild of Simone and Anthony Aja Allsop, "a self-confessed soul boy from London's East End". In the world of the internet, so much stuff gets lost, but Ketch A Vibe ("recorded on the top of a mountain in Caerphilly"), with its eclectic music policy and concentration on new, independent and unsigned artists, is punching above its weight.

It's been picked up and syndicated by radio stations across the world and the UK, including in Las Vegas, Birmingham, Montenegro, London and Lithuania. In addition, they've become regular guests on more radio stations also internationally.

"Getting involved with radio has definitely helped raise my profile," she says. "We do not focus on me, or indeed my music, in our shows; it is about exposing all new music, but I do get the opportunity to play my tracks and of course plug my website!

"The job of networking, building contacts and potential working relationships is one of the most difficult things when you're an independent artist. Aja and I receive new music every day from artists and producers from around the world. Having this direct link and contact with them has given me the opportunity to seek out people I could work with and discuss possibilities.

"It has broadened my horizons and subsequently am currently working on projects with a number of great producers here in the UK and the US."

Thinking tangentially about music and the way it can be disseminated is now part of an artist's armoury. It might not add revenue straight away, but it can't be bad to widen your contact base and pool ideas can it?

You can watch Aja and Claire invite submissions and interaction on YouTube (caution: contains adult themes).

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Ten tenors on 10/10/10

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James McLaren James McLaren | 11:07 UK time, Friday, 8 October 2010

A serendipitous date this weekend has given Llandaff Cathedral the opportunity to add to the coffers of its organ appeal.

The 10th day of the 10th month of 2010 is being marked by the world-famous cathedral by Ten Tenors - an gala event with some of Wales' foremost tenors performing a selection of works from 7.30pm.

Dennis O'Neill

Dennis O'Neill

The world-renowned Dennis O'Neill is joined by the Three Welsh Tenors (Rhys Meirion, Aled Hall and Alun Jenkins); The Welsh National Opera's Michael Clifton-Thompson, Philip Lloyd Holtam and Howard Kirt; Jo Roach, Richard Allan and Sam Furness.

At 10pm, the climax to the event will be a performance of Nessun Dorma for which the tenors will be joined by Côr Caerdydd.

O'Neill told us: "We are all looking forward to the 10 Tenors concert on Sunday at Llandaff Cathedral. Personally I was delighted to be invited and to support their fund-raising drive. The programme will be a balance of arias, songs and duets and is sure to appeal to a very wide audience. It promises to be real 'fun' evening."

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Mother Of Six's Catalonian connection

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 10:40 UK time, Friday, 8 October 2010

Wrexham's Mother Of Six are north Wales' finest stoner rock band. Although they've only released one (excellent) EP so far, their live reputation has spread much further than the confines of their hometown.

They're one of a handful of Wrexham artists who have foregone the drudgery of trying to get a foothold on the UK tour circuit by aiming further afield. In particular, their talent has taken them to Catalonia. I'm resisting the temptation to write 'in northern Spain' because, to the proud members of that autonomous community, that reads as 'taken them to Wales in western England' would to us.

The musical relationship between the two areas has resulted in some fascinating gig exchanges, and this weekend one of Catalonia's finest bands is over in Wrexham for a couple of gigs with Mother Of Six.

Mother Of Six's bass player, and renowned local promoter Neal Thompson, explained how this cultural connection was initiated: "It comes from European Centre for Training and Regional Co-operation (ECTARC) in Llangollen, the body that administers the Leonardo and Archimedes educational cultural exchange programmes for the European Union. This has fostered a relationship between colleges in Catalonia and Glyndwr University in Wrexham.

"Our personal experience was doing a show at the Guild Bar in Glyndwr for the summer school students, who are mainly Catalan. They study sound and radio broadcast. We were invited to Catalonia on the strength of the gig by one of the students at the summer school, David, who subsequently became our good friend. He set up our first mini tour there."

How does the music scene in Catalonia differ from Wrexham and what are the similarities?

"Firstly, the audiences were very appreciative (I don't know if you agree but British audiences can be a little austere). We played lots of places all over the state, there are loads of bands, all producing their own CDs to a very high standard."

What are the wider cultural similarities or differences between the areas?

"We share some similarities with Catalonia, they have their own language and sense of independence, but are part of a larger country that governs and sets their laws. Welsh and Catalan share some similar words but are inherently different languages. The lifestyle there is typically Mediterranean."

There's a joint release planned between the bands from the different areas, and I believe that Mother Of Six will be singing in Catalan. Does that have more resonance for you as a Welsh speaker, Neal?

"We're doing that firstly for the fun of it and also because the people there will really appreciate it! A point worth mentioning here is all of the bands we played with while we were there sing in Catalan, not English. We recognise the language is very important to them."

So, there's a couple of gigs this weekend, can you tell us about the band who are over here from Catalonia and where people will be able to catch you both?

"The band are called Goliat, a very new two-piece band, with a guitarist who sings and a drummer. We're playing two shows with them: Friday 8 October at the Guild Bar, Glyndwr University which is a free gig and the next night (Saturday 9 October) we're playing a secret gig on top of a mountain. Get in touch with us through MySpace or Facebook to find out about it."

Guerrilla gigs featuring a Catalonian band on top of a Welsh mountain. Who said there are no surprises left in rock 'n' roll?

Duffy on BBC Radio Wales

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James McLaren James McLaren | 11:25 UK time, Thursday, 7 October 2010

Duffy joined Jamie and Louise on Radio Wales this morning, and in a fascinating interview she talked about her career so far and her new record.

Louise Elliott, Duffy and Jamie Owen

Louise Elliott, Duffy and Jamie Owen

Listen to the whole interview here:

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Gwych Sounds: October 2010

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 15:38 UK time, Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Once a month I'm going to herd together five of the most interesting Welsh self-releases/demos that have come my way, eulogise them, let you hear them, and point you in the direction of where you can find out more about the artists concerned. Of course, if you have a nomination of your own that I've ignorantly failed to support, you're welcome to tell us about it by commenting below.

These are the greatest self-released/unsigned sounds that have blessed my eardrums in the past month: the gwych sounds, if you will.


Cardiff's Hail! The Planes make sounds that resonate at exactly the same frequency as your heart. It's a rare skill. This is one of my favourite recordings of recent years. It's intimate yet spacious, cinematic and moving. It reminds me of The Delgados and, when the harmonies ghost in, the kind of French mood pop that inspired Stereolab. But most of all, it sounds like nothing else I'm hearing in Wales at the moment. A great, free musical spirit unconstrained by form or any desire to spear the Zeitgeist. How refreshing! Music that levitates melancholy.

This is one of two tracks available on their excellent Brother, I'm Sinking EP produced by Charlie Francis (REM, High Llamas, Pixies). It's available to purchase from their bandcamp site.

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Angharad and Owain hail from west Wales and Cwmbran. There's a wide-eared wonder and playfulness to their sound as if they were deserted at birth and raised by the instruments in the school music cupboard. They've just completed their début EP. It's like Spring after a long barren winter. There is much I love about this track, Off Beat.

I love the off kilter, retuned vocal because it shows that to them it's the recording that's all important, fully-realising and executing their best ideas with whatever tools are to hand. I love the 'beep bop' call and refrain section. I love the way it nods its head to Cornelius's Drop.

I love the fact that, given their youth, they'll be treating us to their unbridled sense of aural possibilities for many years to come. And I love the end of this track more than any other track I can think of. "Bafflingly off beat." Beautifully, too.

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DRAINS - Sports Illustrated

Yikes! A car crash cacophony of fuzz, torn vocal chords and bust guitars heralds the arrival of Cardiff's Drains. This sounds like rock'n'roll's past being trashed by sledgehammers. They'll never end up on Jools Holland or VH1 or in Q Magazine. They will, however, be appearing at our BBC Introducing night at Swn Festival. How great is that?

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Swansea's Adam Lewis, aka Mr Ronz, has hitherto been best known for his cinematic, instrumental breakbeats and for his acclaimed soundtrack work (Noel Clarke's 4,3,2,1, Law and Order:UK etc.). This year he's been working with vocalist Emmy Lou, under the name Emmy's Unicorn. These are lushly dramatic homages to bruised hearts borne along by big sounds and insidious melodies. Neither Florence nor any of her machines can make a sound as alluring. The little swells of lapsteel make me want to melt. Ace.

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PORTALS - Curtain Times

Rob Morgan is also from Swansea. Previously he operated his synths and software as solo artist Lifting Gear Engineer. For the last couple of years he's been collaborating with friends from the Swansea Valleys as Portals. Rob's signature is his innate ability to create sounds that sit together incredibly well and convince.

On this track from his recently released Know Your Flags EP listen to how well the lowdown, scuzzy guitars fit with the sawtoothed synths and vocoder. But Rob isn't just a tonal artisan, he understands that great sounds need to be spun into great shapes for them to have any value. And the shapes that Portals create are intriguing: webs of pulsing analogue synths on a framework of Krautrock-beats.

This is great love for electronic music in all its forms made manifest. A triumph of the finest oscillations. Excellent.

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Adam Walton playlist and show info: Sunday 3 October 2010

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 14:42 UK time, Wednesday, 6 October 2010

This week's three-hour celebration of excellent, almost-entirely-new-Welsh music calls on luminous talents from all four corners of the country (but I'm still actively seeking music from mid Wales - please see the note on submitting demos to the show, below). We go from the consummate and crafted musicianship of Colorama to the all out, post hardcore roar of Bastions - with much in between to delight the musically curious.

On the subject of Bastions, the half hour mixtape that we couldn't broadcast this week will be broadcast soon. Sorry for any inconvenience or disappointment caused.

There are début plays for Squawk, Chailo Sim, Astroid Boyz, Tom Walton, Brutality Will Prevail and James Neill.

I'm dead keen to hear more excellent sounds from unknown sources, regardless of genre - so long and they're fresh and fascinating. Please send your demos as high quality .mp3s to: with a short biography and a contact number.

Or, post CDs/vinyl to: Adam Walton, BBC Radio Wales, Library & Arts Centre, Rhosddu Rd., WREXHAM LL11 1AU

Elsewhere on the show, Huw Williams reminds us of Denbigh's Terminal and a man called Ben inspires us with Eric Burdon & War.

Have an excellent, music-filled week!

Thank you/diolch yn fawr,


COLORAMA (Benllech) Autumnal

YR ODS (Gwynedd) Nid Teledu Oedd Y Bai

CODEX LEICESTER (Welsh guitarist) Strong Like Bull

SQUAWK (Cardiff)* Loon Unit

CHAILO SIM (Pembrokeshire)* Fences

BROKEN VINYL CLUB (Cardiff) I Want You Girl

PORTALS (Swansea) The Duke

THE SKINTS (Chepstow label) Up Against The Wall

AL LEWIS (Abersoch) Life On The Wire

TAINT (Swansea) Black Rain

PENDULUM (Llanberis) The Island [switch Fusion Remix]

VANGUARD (Pembrokeshire) Loving Someone Else

JO BARTLETT Head And The Heart

TRWBADOR (Camarthen/Cwmbran) Daw'r Nos Daw'r Haf




DANCERS (Denbigh/St Asaph) Oh! Bicycle

SIZZLA (Cardigan) Give Me A Try (Rollo Remix)

EMMY'S UNICORN (Swansea) Kate

THE JOY FORMIDABLE (Mold) I Don't Want To See You Like This

TERMINAL (Denbigh) Hold On

ASTROID BOYZ (Cardiff)* Jungle Booku

TOM WALTON (Penarth)* Touch Me

OOKAMI (Pontypridd) Lleuad

THE ARTERIES (Swansea) Capture The Flag (album Track)

ALEX DINGLEY (Llansteffan) Cats Eyes

GLIC (Llanfairfechan) Men Are From Mars, Boys Are From Nintendo

BRUTALITY WILL PREVAIL (Valleys)* Trapped Doors Moving Walls

THE HIDDEN PERSUADER (Cardiff) Channel Ident

KITTY COWELL (Newport) Fake It (mike Fantastic Remix)

BREICHIAU HIR (Cardiff) Cawr


BASTIONS (Anglesey) Soar

ISLET (Cardiff) Ringerz


ERIC BURDON & WAR Spill The Wine

PETE LAWRIE (Penarth) In The End

JAMES NEILL (Newport)* Monsters' Waltz

Attack! Attack! - The Latest Fashion track by track guide

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:36 UK time, Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Just out on the Hassle Records label - home to Alkaline Trio and Cancer Bats - is the second album from south Wales pop rock foursome Attack! Attack! which arrived in the office this morning.

They have stated explicitly that they wanted to move away from the 'pop punk' tag with its negative connotations of throw-away brevity and lack of serious intent. On first listen, The Latest Fashion is indeed a step or three towards a maturity that puts them sonically in the same ground as compatriots Kids In Glass Houses (with whom they share a producer in Romesh Dodangoda).

Attack! Attack! The Latest Fashion

The Latest Fashion

It's not going to win any prizes for originality with its hook-laden pop songs of beefily-produced rock, with fringes swinging and axeman poses being struck. It's not designed to be original, however. It's designed to get on the stereos of the teenagers who like their rock to have a tune.

With backgrounds in south Wales bands such as Dopamine, Pete's Sake and Midasuno, Attack! Attack! are far from noobs to song construction. Lead track Everybody Knows, has a punchy, economical crunch to its melody. Riffs bounce along, Neil Starr's smooth vocals drive the verses and in (yes) pop-punk style his bandmates join in the fist-waving choruses.

There's even some woah-woahs in the song and it's clear that Attack! Attack! are an ambitious band in the hunt for proper chart success and a loyal live following. That way lucre lies, and like some of the best Welsh bands there's no façade of underground 'keeping it real' politics: this is unit-shifting rock.

No Excuses and My Shoes again have great big choruses that put them into space occupied by Lostprophets and Fall Out Boy. It's a three track barrage of effective, barnstorming pop-rockery.

Blood On My Hands marks a change of pace - again augmented by woah-woah-woahs cos if it ain't broke, don't fix it - that shows introspection both lyrically and melodically. It's a confident song that has elements of Foo Fighters to it.

Seen Me Lately returns to the fast-paced, tightly-wound sub-three-minute pop song, again with a big chorus hook but it's one of the weaker tracks here.

But then we get the title track which brings in a rougher sound. Starr's vocals are treated, scratched and scraped and there's a Lostprophets/Refused vibe to this definably punk track that has a loopy, multi-layered riff allied to a pounding rhythm. A welcome change of style here.

Nemesis is as dark as they get here, then Best Mistake takes Attack! Attack! into Kids In Glass Houses mode as it builds from a delicate acoustic intro into a soaring chorus. Neither would it be out of place on a Jimmy Eat World record.

We're Not The Enemy is a bruiser, all compressed stop-start riffs; then Not Afraid comes along. Despite being on an album packed full of hooks, it still manages to raise its hand and volunteer for single status and having being picked up by daytime Radio 1, its credentials are proven.

No Tomorrow ends the album on a slow-burning note, as is the fashion for modern rock. Lyrically- and musically-dark, it performs the 'epic' trick very well and Dodangoda ladles on the 'atmosphere' effect (there must be a button or a knob for that).

The Latest Fashion places Attack! Attack! in direct competition with some of the world's foremost pop rock/metal outfits. It sounds expensive; it's polished hard rock with a keen ear for killer hooks and with support from magazines, TV and radio it could be another in a long line of Welsh guitar-toting successes.

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Electroneg 1000

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James McLaren James McLaren | 08:56 UK time, Wednesday, 6 October 2010

A few weeks back I was having a moan on Twitter that the electronic scene in Wales wasn't as healthy and verdant as it was back a decade or so ago when a raft of artists were releasing records on Cardiff's Plastic Raygun label to some acclaim.

I've been thoroughly chastened now, though. A new compilation is out this month from a "new music collective" called Electroneg. "We're some geeks who are dedicated to unearthing electronic/leftfield sounds from Wales and the rest of the known universe," they say.

Electroneg 1000 is their début album and has an impressive tracklisting that gives the lie to the notion that there's a dearth of bleeps and beats coming out of the principality at the moment.

"We are passionate about electronic and leftfield music in all its forms," they say, "from Merzbow to Justice. We wanted this compilation to be an open and unsnobby representation of some of the good things currently coming out of Wales. Which is why you'll hear electronica flirting outrageously with bass music, almost-pop, noisense and many other genres we've just made up."

If you reading the weekly indie inkies back in the mid-1990s you'll be aware of the work of μ-Ziq (pronounced Mu-Ziq), who were helmed by Mike Paradinas. It was indie-friendly dance music and one of their members was bassist Frank Naughton, who mastered Electroneg 1000 (after μ-Ziq Naughton went on to be in Cardiff-based indie blokes Rocket Goldstar who once created a 12 hour single).

The tracklisting of Electroneg 1000 is as follows:

Released through all the modern channels of distribution (including physically, praise the lord), Electroneg 1000 can also be sampled on Bandcamp.

We'd like to hear your suggestions for more great electronic music coming out of Wales at the moment. 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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Inquest date for Stuart Cable

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James McLaren James McLaren | 14:07 UK time, Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Four months after Stuart Cable's death, a date has been set for the inquest.

Read the BBC News story here.

Stuart Cable

Stuart Cable

The hearing will take place at Aberdare Coroner's Court at noon on Tuesday 19 October.

Former Stereophonics drummer Cable died suddenly in June this year, and tributes poured into us here at BBC Wales. You can read our tribute and some of the comments we received here.

Harlech Castle and the inevitable rise of 'historicore'

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James McLaren James McLaren | 12:10 UK time, Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Perennial indie favourites (and Manic Street Preachers tourmates) British Sea Power have lauded north Wales' Harlech in a round-up of, erm, their favourite castles for Drowned In Sound.

Yes, it's the interview everyone's been waiting for. But scoffing aside, I'm interested. Phil Sumner's a history buff and he says of Harlech Castle: "I first went here when I was five. If you're ever in the Snowdon area of Wales it's worth taking a look at this one. You could combine it with a trip to the Snowdonia National Park as well. This castle was built during the reign of Edward I when he conquered Wales. Taking a look around this one, it is truly amazing. It was built to last and withstand attack.

Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle

"It was built with a concentric plan where one line of defences contains another. The castle was immortalised in the song Men of Harlech where it withstood a seven year siege and was the last Lancastrian fortress to surrender. The trick up its sleeve was its supply port.

"The castle is built on cliffs, a natural defence anyway, but round the back of it a fortified passage was built which dropped the distance of the cliff. The sea used to reach up to this part 700 years ago and allowed the castle to be resupplied via shipping during a siege. A brilliant invention. Check out the sand dunes nearby, they're a good place to play castles in."

Music periodicals are always looking for strange angles from which to approach artists; to explore facets of their personality beyond the Ozone-esque "so what's your favourite colour" exposé. Me, I like history. And chatting to a band with more than half a brain cell between them is good; they will probably have interests and aspirations beyond rocking out and drug-fuelled orgies.

Space-filler it may be, but geeky indie men talking about history floats my boat more than most topics. In fact, I may see what The Joy Formidable have to say about the Roman system of maniples when they're promoting their début album next year.

The marriage of history and music has occupied my mind before. I've had extensive discussions with BBC Wales Music contributor and BBC Wales History blogger James W Roberts about a genre of music called 'historicore' in which the leading lights of the genre share nothing but a name derived from history.

Bear with me, this has legs. Imagine how great a band called The Invasion of Manchuria just has to be. How about The Wall Street Crash? The Newport Rising? The Tolpuddle Martyrs? The Rape of Nanking? The Siege Of Stalingrad?

We want your suggestions for potential historicore bands. Have fun; dip into that GCSE history syllabus you did once, and imagine possibly the greatest scene the music world has ever seen.

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Jonny be good

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James McLaren James McLaren | 11:11 UK time, Monday, 4 October 2010

In a move to cause unsuitable excitement to all indie fans, former Gorky's Zygotic Mynci singer Euros Childs has joined forces with Teenage Fanclub frontman Norman Blake in a new outfit called Jonny.



Although both bands had their heyday in the 1990s (check out Bandwagonesque or 13 for some of Teenage Fanclub's best moments), the duo are an exciting prospect for indie boys and girls. Cardiff's Sŵn Festival are in on the act, with a gig by Jonny scheduled for 8 February 2011 at Clwb Ifor Bach.

Jonny release a free EP on 10 November and an album follows early next year on Alsatian/Turnstile. A UK tour is in place in support of the record.

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Tom Jones got a Dr No for Bond role

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:28 UK time, Monday, 4 October 2010

Sir Tom Jones has revealed that he was once considered for the role of James Bond.

Tom Jones

Tom Jones

Read the BBC News story here.

In an interview with Smooth Radio to be broadcast today, the Treforest Voice (who contributed the theme song to Thunderball) says that he was one of the names considered for the iconic role, probably as Sean Connery's tenure was coming to an end.

Sir Tom told breakfast presenter Lynn Parsons: "When I was young I would have liked to be James Bond, and at one time it was discussed," he revealed.

"I think it came from Cubby Broccoli, who was the man in charge, of course, and he said when my name was put forward, 'Tom Jones is so recognisable as Tom Jones - he's a character, he's become this singer with a big character'.

"'So in order for him to do James Bond, would people accept him as being James Bond? Could they get past him being Tom Jones?' - and so apparently that was what the problem was," Sir Tom added.While it might be surprising to have considered a Welshman for the oh-so-very English spy, the actors who have played Bond include Sean Connery (Scottish), George Lazenby (Australian), Timothy Dalton (Welsh) and Pierce Brosnan (Irish). Only Roger Moore and Daniel Craig have actually been English.

However, it's difficult to imagine Jones being able to twist his Welsh brogue into smooth received pronunciation. His Welshness is a far less interesting reason to be declined for the role compared to that given to explorer Ranulph Fiennes, who was told he had "Hands too big and a face like a farmer".

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The Goldie Lookin' Celebrity Golf Challenge

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:25 UK time, Monday, 4 October 2010

As the Ryder Cup grinds to its soggy conclusion today, complete with some of the worst clothing ever donned by sober people, it falls to Goldie Lookin' Chain's P Xain to report for us what happened at their alternative golfing extravaganza, The Goldie Lookin' Celebrity Golf Extravaganza.

So, over to Rhys...

"The Ryder Cup is almost over, the Americans are packing, the party is over.

"The Ryder Cup will live on long into the twilight of Newport's memory not because of the actual Ryder Cup but because of the competition it spawned and really should have been, the Goldie Lookin Celebrity Golf Challenge.

"We at GLC HQ had decided one golf comp in Newport was not enough so we staged our own a full week before the big nobs up the Celtic Manor got theirs under way. We chose Caerleon Golf Club, it's only nine holes so a lot quicker to get round. With a few words in a few well chosen ears it was on.

"I was organising the golf day with Emma Corten who runs Newport's best free magazine, Voice. I couldn't have done the event without her.

"We had also decided to put on a gig on the same day in Newport centre to make the day an extravangaza!

"So the days rolled by and time counted down and all of a sudden it was the 25 September 2010, our day.

"We started the day with the golfers' favourite, the classic bacon sandwich. White bread and bacon are some of Mike Balls' most beloved foodstuffs so he was the happiest I had seen him in ages:

Mike Balls eating a bacon sandwich

"We had trophies and everything:

Golf trophies

"Not only were we doing best of nine holes, we also had a 'nearest the pin' competition which was a quid a go and a raffle, All proceeds were going to Tenovus. We raised over 400 quid in total.

Nearest the pin competition

"We had a really great mixture of celebs from Dainton and Pritchard to Bethan Elfyn, Howard Marks to Radio Wales' Owen Money.

Dainton and Pritchard

"We had a great crowd come to watch the day and unlike the Ryder Cup the weather was amazing. We had loads of local kids to help our golfers and caddy for them too.

Kids at Goldie Lookin' Chain's golf competition

"After the celebs had been round they went back to the clubhouse for a spread of sandwiches and cake, it was like a low budget wedding. Craig Quinnell was loving it.

Craig Quinnell with Goldie Lookin' Chain

"After everyone had been round we did the raffle and then we counted up all the score cards. Needless to say, none of the GLC came in the top three and the winner was sportsman Matt Elias.

Matt Elias

"It was a great day. Then we had to hot foot it over to the other side of Newport and soundcheck for the big gig.

Goldie Lookin' Chain live

"We rocked the party and it was all a great success, no-one had been badly injured apart from the sunburn. I think we should do this every year."

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Welcome to Wales: Katherine Jenkins, Lostprophets, Shirley Bassey - Millenium Stadium Cardiff

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Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 15:43 UK time, Friday, 1 October 2010

Wednesday night saw the glittering and glamorous Welcome To Wales concert for the Ryder Cup celebration at the Millennium Stadium.

This was a concert/TV show, so it was slightly unusual in many ways. There was lots of talking, lots of clapping, lots of speeches, lots of golf celebrities (ahem!), and some music.

Bethan Elfyn

Me and my ticket

I sadly had to shoot off before seeing the grand finale of the whole ensemble piling on the stage to sing the national anthem, to try and get out of Cardiff to the BBC for my Radio One show before the traffic hit gridlock, as is usual after an event like this.

Only an hour and half long, this was a taster of a concert, a smorgasbord of musical styles, tastes, from pop, rock, musical, and opera - and a great celebration of Welsh talent. After Catherine Zeta Jones in a fabulous red silk gown opened the stage for the evening, welcoming the Welsh and any Ryder Cup visitors alike to Wales, it was host Steve Jones who had the unenviable task of holding the night together and interviewing the team captains about their players, their chances and so forth.

The warmth, pride and high celebrity calibre of Zeta Jones, the Prince of Wales and others on screen, and genuine excitement in the crowd at the event made for quite an emotional night and an open-mindedness towards the performers to come.

The Millennium Stadium stage

Inside the Millennium Stadium

Katherine Jenkins opened the concert with modern repertoire of populist classical songs, including one from the Godfather. My apologies for forgetting to make a note of exactly what she sang, but I was rather distracted by the on stage antics.

The first song was a Gothic dance routine, where her dark clothing was ripped off to reveal only a scant flowing white gown, elegantly draped in a fairly revealing manner, surrounded by giant illuminated pink butterfly wings.

The third and final song from Katherine began with happy writhing around barefoot on a bed, leading to her being raised high in the air by a muscle-bound gymnast/trapeze artist, hoisting our heroine aloft and spinning delicately around the stage.

Spectacular and daring, it was a wonderful start to the concert, but I was rather concerned how anyone could possibly match this.

Lostprophets were next, and despite obviously miming, their back-to-basics rock anthems were a refreshing change. Although the audience was slightly older than their normal crowds, the band was tolerated in the context of the evening. One side of the stadium gave an enthused response as if indeed at a rock concert, but the majority of the crowd sat nonplussed.

That is the only trouble with these events for a young, credible band. Despite numerous chart hits and international recognition, the home crowd are still a little unaware of Lostprophets' existence. They are, because of the musical style, a long way from being household musical stars. Still this is why I was here, and stood for my appreciation, much to the annoyance of all around me. They were waiting for Only Men Aloud. Cripes!

Next up was Shaheen Jafargholi & The Mark Jermin Stage School, followed by Only Men Aloud, and Glanaethwy School. The song, dance, and modern hip choir style made for a lively, punchy, and eye-popping performance. There was a flood of energy and colour on stage, and the singing was harmonious and exuberant, a joy to behold.

Sadly, as I mentioned, I had to sneak out around this point, but all the way down the streets of Riverside, the barrage of song could be heard for some distance.

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