24th July 2015
Um. Wow. Old school synths, drifty melodies, touches of Goldfrapp influence, a female voice that Serge Gainsbourg might have favoured, odd sounds, like wood-block percussion, sound effects, accordion, wobbly synths, detuned piano, electro-beats; this is a gab-bag of retro-futuro cool.
And to top it off, it’s all in Welsh (apart from one song in Cornish). I have not a clue what Gwenno is singing about but the press release assures me it is all based on a long-forgotten 1976 dystopian Welsh-language science fiction novel. Cardiff-based Gwenno Saunders is good for a laugh, having been part of the Mk.1 version of The Pippettes, an attempt at harnessing the vintage appeal of retro styling on a girl group. Sadly they were a few years too early and didn’t get beyond a rabid cult following.
Something hypnotic is going on here. It might be the breathy vocals or the sound effects and stuttering, random, eclectic, varied choice of instruments, mostly synths. Or perhaps that I can hear it all as music and sensation, with no need to seek meaning in the words. One minute might be a synth stomper ala Ultravox in the early eighties, next some light Krautrock, then Goldfrapp, then Gainsbourg in the Melody Nelson era then something entirely itself.
Songs don’t just end or fade out, they collapse or fade away and back in, sound effects overcome them before revealing the next. Sounds proliferate and change, all old-school yet, in this day of vintage tea shops, oddly contemporary. How this can be lovely and life-affirming if the subject matter is what I am told it is, I don’t know and I don’t much care.
Gwenno has a glorious oddity here, an album worthy of being dubbed “cult”. One day people will search out copies of this and stories will be told of its fabulous strangeness.