Today the Welsh Language Album of the Year 2017 was announced, so here is Getintothis’ Cath Bore with the details.
When music made in the Welsh language is referred to outside Wales, it is all too often lumped together and plonked under one – vast – umbrella. No matter the genre or style, contemporary or traditional, it can be side lined and put in a corner. Some people are frightened of music in Welsh language, somehow.
Things are changing, slowly, but the need for Welsh Language Music Day, held each February, and Gwobr Albwm Cymraeg y Flwyddyn; Welsh Language Album of the Year, remains.
It’s good news then, that 2017’s shortlisted artists for the annual award, now in its fourth year, showcase how varied music made in the Welsh language is. Previous winners are synth pop Swnami, folk singer and multi-instrumentalist The Gentle Good, and Gwenno for her protest album Y Dydd Olaf in which, amongst other things, she confronts the decline of minority languages.
The winner of Welsh Language Album of the Year 2017 was announced this afternoon, with Bendith scooping the prize with the eponymously entitled Bendith, released on Agati Records.
A Welsh supergroup of sorts, Bendith are the combined forces of Carwyn Ellis/Colorama and alt-folk sibling trio Plu. On the record, they explore themes of family and home, with blood harmonies courtesy of Plu’s Elan, Marged and Gwilym Rhys adding extra poignancy. Bendith – Welsh for blessing –was a key album of 2016, featuring high in many best of albums lists. The record was performed in full to a charmed and packed Trinity Church in Salford last autumn.
The other shortlisted artists are:
The North Wales band, who play Liverpool Cavern on 16 Aug and in September make a return visit to the city to perform at Liverpool Psych Fest, were named new band of the week by the Guardian newspaper and spent the summer playing festivals and shows around UK.Their songs are inspired by their studio’s surrounding wilderness, which sits high up in the hills overlooking two castles. They describe their music as an infusion of psychedelic rock, blues, electro and danceable grooves.
Band Pres Llareggub: Kurn
Sharp, flashy, and powerful brass merged with live breakbeat drums and occasional samples, Band Pres Llareggub combine the Jazz and Hip Hop infused sounds of Brooklyn’s streets with Wales’ finest brass musicians.
Gwilym Bowen Rhys: O Groth y Ddaear
Gwilym, from Plu and Bendith, and formerly Y Bandana, has made an album rooted very firmly in traditional Welsh folk. Yet he combines old melodies with new words –describing the approach as a ‘collage’ – and on it experiments with poetry; on Galargan, a duet with Gwyneth Glyn, Gwilym takes words taken from an 18th century poem and sets them to the melody of an old Welsh carol.
The album including Patrick Rimes from fellow Award shortlisted Calan on the fiddle and Gwen Mari York on the harp.
Meinir Gwilym: Llwybrau
Llwybrau is the singer songwriter’s first album in eight years. Meinir describes the 15 track record as ‘an outburst. It’s like the last eight years of my life in solid form. The recording process was on/off, but…it feels like a ‘now’ kind of album I think. There’s lots of variety in there performance-wise, it’s about anything and everything.’
Mr Huw: Gwna Dy Feddwl i Lawr
Very much an unashamed indie pop album. His fifth long player, Mr Huw is described by Radio 1’s Huw Stephens as ‘A one-off master of melody. These off-kilter looks at the world from a musician desperately trying to make sense of it all make for a very pleasant listen.’
Ryland Teifi: Man Rhydd
Sung in Welsh and in English, and recorded in Ireland, this folk album refers to a magical place, a piece of land between west Wales and Wexford. It’s old words and new. It’s the place Ryland finds himself in.
Solomon is the fourth album of former buskers and pop folk pioneers, Calan. The album is inspired by ancient stories and myths from Wales and is laden with harrowing harmonies, traditional melodies and modern beats which create a different narrative to the usual. The album explores stories of fairies and men in search of love in the usual experimental form that Calan have mastered over the years.
The Gentle Good: Adfeilion
Adfeilion (Ruins) is a thing of absolute beauty. Singing in both Welsh and English, folk singer and musician Gareth Bonello writes about contemporary and universal themes, history, identity and social commentary. Bound For Lampendusa for example was written in frustration to the can’t be arsed response from government and EU over the refugee crisis, refugee death rates increasing since the Central Mediterranean became the main route of escape from Syria and other war torn countries. In the song Bonello imagines himself as a refugee drifting, lost in the Mediterranean sea.
Yws Gwynedd: Anrheoli
Recordiau Côsh Records
Named after lead singer Ywain Gwynedd, Yws Gwynedd took fifteen years to write, record and release first album, Codi/\Cysgu, which won Best Solo Artist, Best Song and Best Album at the Y Selar Awards in 2015, organised by the Welsh Language music magazine. The second album, Anrheoli, was created differently, over two weekends at Bing Studios, mid Wales. The energy and fun of these recording sessions is clear in the upbeat and guitar-led tracks, creating an instant feel-good factor.