18 Jul 2015

Gwenno / Y Dydd Olaf (album review)

This is the first album by brand new Heavenly Recs signing Gwenno Saunders, whose music as a solo musician has only really been 'out there' for a matter of months. But despite this, Gwenno's attracted herself a fairly large amount of press attention, and her debut is something I was so happy to be able to get my hands on early to review.

As an English speaker, the first striking thing about the album is that (bar a song in Cornish) Gwenno sings strictly in Welsh - but luckily, however, this doesn't detract from the musical brilliance of it, and Gwenno's celestial voice works as a beautiful instrument, much like Liz Fraser on the early Cocteaus records.

The album has a really cosmic, spacey sound, and because of this it's a really great listen that you can really lose yourself in. Gwenno's old band, The Pipettes, troubled the higher reaches of the UK charts with 4 hit singles in the mid-noughties, and not surprisingly for an album like Y Dydd Olaf,  I'd say that by stark contrast it's probably the most anti-commercial pop record you could still call a 'pop record' ever. It has obvious touchpoints in the otherworldly quirks of Broadcast, the motorik krautrock of NEU! and the ethereal dreaminess of Slowdive, but despite this, it's fresh and genuinely unlike anything else you've ever heard.

The bright Stwff has some really oddly hypnotic percussion sounds that remind me of Stealing Sheep's Greed, whilst a fairly danceable bassline turns it into the kinda track you just can't help but dance to. And the track that precedes it, Golau Arall, gets a bit of a similar effect with a similarly fantastic bassline, and - like on the rest of the record - it has a really fantastic drum sound thanks to some brilliant production.

Every single song on Y Dydd Olaf has it's own beautiful post-apocalyptic charm; from the Cornish-sung closer Amser, which is what I'd imagine 23rd century synthpop to sound like, to hypnotic opener Chwyldro, which has been floating around the internet a year or two, there are no fillers on Y Dydd Olaf.

Obviously being signed to Heavenly Recs, Gwenno's potential audience of krautheads and psych fans is going to be quite large; but has she alienated her audience by singing in a language that 95% of them can't understand? OF COURSE NOT. Through the use of her gorgeous voice and beautiful delivery, Gwenno's otherworldly debut transports you elsewhere - you don't need to be able to understand the words, because the music is so wonderful that you just can't help but love every single one second of Y Dydd Olaf's 44 minute runtime.


(written by calum cashin)