Adwaith: Melyn – album review
DL (11th October) LP to follow
One of the rising stars of the Welsh independent music scene, Adwaith, release their debut album this month. Simon Tucker finds a band not only creating great songs but spearheading a vital movement in his home country.
Welsh. Music. Album. Three words that seem to send shudders up the spines of those living outside our borders. Think about it. There have been countless features in famous publications and alternative websites about music from all over the globe. Germany, France, Africa, all have had many columns and think pieces dedicated to their rich history. Now try and think about the last time you saw a comprehensive feature on the history of music from Wales. Trying to get support for Welsh language music is like trying to get Westminster to give a shit about us over the bridge. We were given ‘Cool Cymru’ of course when Britpop (which should really have been called Englishpop) was at its peak but if you think back to that time our most celebrated acts were Manic Street Preachers (English language), Catatonia (English language), Stereophonics (English language) and Super Furry Animals who did manage to crossover with their acclaimed album ‘Mwng’. Wales was exploding with alternative music at the time but where were the writers and broadcasters? We had Peel of course. Peel knew. Peel always knew. Thanks to Peel a few Welsh language bands did manage to get into the living rooms and bedrooms of music fans around this island. Anhrefn, Geraint Jarman and Datblygu breached the invisible wall but that was it really. This isn’t to say it was just the English press that was averse to covering music sang in Welsh, even within her own borders. There was, and remain, a few vocal supporters of exciting independent Welsh language music. People like Huw Stephens, Adam Walton, Rhys Mwyn, and Bethan Elfyn supported the language then and they support it now and now is when the support is most needed. You see, right now we are in the middle of one of the richest periods of our history for fierce, unfiltered Welsh language music. There is a DIY experimental scene on the march with zines, and self-released projects exploding. We’ve got Gwenno making waves (someone who has been grafting for many years and is finally getting the credit she deserves) and we have Boy Azooga selling out gigs and appearing on Jools Holland. Then we have Adwaith…
Adwaith (Hollie Singer, Gwenllian Anthony, Heledd Owen) have seen their profile raise sharply. Through their music and hard work, they have had one of the most exciting first eighteen months any new band could wish for. We at LTW spotted this from the time we were sent their first single by the band’s label Libertino Records who are another independent label and who, most importantly, are not based in Cardiff where all attention seems to focus on. Adwaith are not Cardiff cool or fame-chasers. They are a trio who are doing things the exact way they want to. No chasing the in-crowd or crawling up to those who have placed themselves at the top of an imagined pile of importance. Those whose blessings you seem to need to get anywhere in Wales have come to them and that is even more exciting. Now with a tour supporting Gwenno, a single remixed by James Dean Bradfield, and a numerous amount of festival appearances under their belt Adwaith deliver their much-anticipated debut album. We’ve heard the singles and now it is time to see if the band can deliver a fully realised long-player.
Melyn, it is a great pleasure to say, is a triumph. Not only have Adwaith delivered on the promise of their singles but they have expanded their scope and have created a work of pure beauty and loaded with sonic surprises. Surprise is probably the best word to describe Melyn and not because of how good is it (there was a feeling we were going to get a classic) but how many shifts and textures the album contains. Aided by the wonderful production of producer Steffan Pringle, Melyn manages to tap into the rich vein of historic Welsh music and propel it screaming into the future. The songs here already feel like ones that we have lived with for many years without once sounding dated or that horrible word ‘retro’.
From the expansive opener ‘Intro’ which sounds like Baxter Dury backed by Mogwai to the lilting beauty of Fel i Fod, Melyn is an album that is huge in ambition and bold in its throw-everything-at-it ethos. There are moments of beautiful intimacy (Pwysau, Gartref), Disintegration-era The Cure (Dan Y Haenau) and Slits-sass (Lipstic Coch, Gorau).
Adwaith play on this album like they have no fear. All of the instrumentation is sharp and direct with little grooves and melodies appearing in unexpected places. When they want to play hard they play hard which helps songs like album highlight Diafol and soon-to-be-live favourite Osian. Heledd Owen’s drumming on the album is a revelation and anyone who has followed the band from the start will have noticed how she and the rest of the band have improved so much in such a short space of time. There is a confidence and swagger to the album which comes when a young band believe fully in what they are doing and their vision for their music.
Melyn isn’t another Welsh language album. It is Wales herself. It is its foreboding skylines and invisible drizzle (thanks Jay). It is its beautiful summer mornings and its life bringing rivers. It is fierce and proud. It is strong and vulnerable. It is its communities and high streets ravaged by uncaring politicians. It is her rural heart and her street-smart city dwellers. It is her multitude of different cultures and dialects. Melyn is welcoming, warm, sarcastic and funny. It is unashamed of who it is. Melyn is also the voice of the youth of Wales who were shafted by the older generation. It is the voice of those screaming out at us to look after our environment and to support the vulnerable. Melyn is one of the best debut albums by ANY band of recent memory and demands attention not only from those who reside here in Wales but those who live over the bridge. If there is any justice then Adwaith will be embraced and discovered by young adults from all over the UK looking for a band who mirror their own politics and beliefs and who are needing of a shared community. The future belongs to the young and with Melyn the future is Adwaith.