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This Weekend I’ll Mostly be Listening to… Gwenno January 9, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

An album in Welsh. An album with a Welsh language science fiction novel as its conceptual inspiration. An album that has tracks that explicitly name check revolution, patriarchy. It has to be Gwenno Saunders (late of the revivalist pop group The Pipette’s who I’ve never heard, though I played a 2010 song – Start/Stop/Synchro – by Rose Elinor Dougall also of that parish, more than a few times). And what’s not to like? As this interview here with the quietus notes, Saunders has an explicitly political take on matters.

There’s an odd tension in this album between what are electronic (often motorik) soundscapes and the, on the face of it, more conventional song structures. Now this isn’t entirely unprecedented, early Stereolab went a not dissimilar route in the past, but this might just be doing a disservice to Saunders because while this is indeed the epitome of those much overused terms dream pop and motorik there’s something dark and sinuous about the song writing that adds an extra dimension to the tracks, and while experimental is not necessarily the word I’d use – though there’s a lot to consider in the ambient excursions on the album, nor is this mainstream.

Just on that aspect of her work it is clear she doesn’t mind bending even the poppiest moments on the album and warping them into something quite a bit more angular. For example, Sisial Y Mór (sadly not available on YouTube in the original) has a great treated piano like sound that informs much of the song but even better is the way the arpeggiated sound that crops up towards the latter third actually is allowed to run ahead of the beat making this a most unpop like experience. That said there’s some pretty intriguing rhythms on some of the tracks. Is that really a traditional beat on Stwff? Sure sounds like it.

And it ups the tempo sufficiently often to move beyond swimmy vocals and sounds. Patriarchaeth (Patriarchy) is a good example of same – all big choruses and driving percussion. And there’s some lovely song writing, Chwyldro (Revolution) wraps itself around a melody that drifts in and out in unexpected ways – and with a nice dropping bass line. Amser likewise, and is also sung entirely in Cornish. Te title track which is fantastic. All twitchy frequency sounds and reverberating percussion.

One aspect of it which I particularly like is that it doesn’t overstay its welcome. A concise 43 minutes or so and that’s our lot.

I was in North Wales over the Summer and what struck me was how much Welsh is spoken openly in café’s and restaurants and on the street, as against how little Irish is spoken on this island. Last time I heard people speaking the latter openly in any number was late last year in the shadow of Mt. Errigal in Donegal. To see Gwenno so openly engage with both Welsh (her first language) and Cornish in this medium is oddly heartening, to see such a radical impulse behind it is likewise, but as with any music it stands and falls on how good it is. No problem there.

Chwyldro (Revolution)

Patriarchate (Patriarchy)

Amser (sung in Cornish)

Canon Peiriant


1. Philip Ferguson - January 10, 2016

I’ve started listening to a great little (three-person) French band called Hypnotic Wheels.

Here is their version of the great J.B. Lenoir song, ‘Down in Mississippi’: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/songs-of-resistance-j-b-lenoirs-down-in-mississippi/

Liked by 1 person

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