|Gwenno — Le Kov (March 2, 2018)|
Gwenno — Le Kov (March 2, 2018)••→ Once a member of the girl group~loving Pipettes, the Welsh singer~musician embarked on a career as an electronic pop artist after leaving the group. Written entirely in Cornish, ‘Le Kov’ is exploration of the individual and collective subconscious, the myths and drolls of Cornwall, and the survival of Britain’s lesser known Brythonic language. As one of the language’s few fluent speakers, Gwenno felt a duty to make her second album entirely in Cornish: to create a document of a living language, explore her identity and the endless creative possibilities of a tongue that has a very small surviving artistic output, despite having been around for at least 15 centuries.
••→ She dove deep into research, learning about attempts to protect and progress the language and the role of women throughout Cornish history. When Gwenno considered the legends of sunken Brythonic cities Cantre’r Gwaelod, Kêr~Is, Langarrow and Lyonesse, she knew she had her starting point. These cities evoked her idea of language as its own form of psychological territory, a concept perfectly distilled by the Cornish title for the album, ‘Le Kov’ — the place of memory.
••→ Gwenno has also announced a series of dates for 2018, following the previously announced 2017 shows in towns with a rich Brythonic heritage, Merthyr Tydfil & Falmouth, in keeping with ‘Le Kov’s theme.
••→ ‘Le Kov’ isn’t really a concept album — the city doesn’t loom that large through these 10 songs, and you don’t need the translation sheet to appreciate the gorgeous, sea~warped psychedelia that Gwenno has created alongside long~term collaborator and producer Rhys Edwards. © Credit: Romain Mader. La Bâtie~Festival de Genève
Birth name: Gwenno Mererid Saunders
Born: 23 May 1981, Cardiff, Wales
Genres: Electropop, indie pop, Electronic, POP/R&B
Location: Caerdydd, Wales, UK
Album release: March 2, 2018
Record Label: Heavenly Recordings
01. Hi a Skoellyas Liv a Dhagrow 5:35
02. Tir Ha Mor 4:10
03. Herdhya 2:49
04. Eus Keus? 5:00
05. Jynn~Amontya 5:50
06. Den Heb Taves 6:22
07. Daromres y’n Howl 3:17
08. Aremorika 3:11
09. Hunros 2:32
10. Koweth Ker 5:42
Producer: Rhys EdwardsReview
Fri 2 Mar 2018 09.30 GMT / Score: ****
Gwenno: Le Kov review — Cornish identity in full~colour psychedelia.
••→ The fourth track on Gwenno Saunders’ second album raises a question about whether lyrics really matter. Saunders narrates the verses of the brilliant Eus Keus? in a monotone, before the sung bursts into colour at the chorus, a euphoric series of chords with Saunders suddenly urgent over the top. She’s singing in Cornish — after the Welsh language of her debut album, she’s switched to her second mother tongue (English is her third language) — and one wonders quite what she’s singing about: something vital and urgent, surely? Then one checks the lyric translation. The verses are a roll call of Cornish towns and that thrilling chorus actually runs: “Is there cheese? / Is there or isn’t there? / If there’s cheese, bring cheese / And if there isn’t cheese — bring what’s easy!” Is the song diminished by being a lyrical throwaway, the way the Smiths’ Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others was? No, because you can imprint your own meaning on it. That’s not to say there isn’t seriousness of purpose behind Le Kov (which translates as “The Place of Memory”). It’s an exploration of Cornish identity, from feelings of post~Brexit~vote isolation, to calls to arms, to the status of minority languages. But casual listeners are unlikely to pick up on those themes (and the lyrics are sufficiently allusive that you need Gwenno’s explanations to get the point). It’s the melodies that will keep people coming back: purposeful and direct, but deliciously blurry, reminiscent of Broadcast in their creation of a psychedelia that looks backwards and forwards simultaneously.
© Exploring Cornish identity … Gwenno performing in 2016. Photograph: Gaelle Beri / Redferns
BEN MURPHY, March 1st, 2018
••→ The Welsh artist merges big ideas with psychedelic electronics on her triumphant second album.
••→ Welsh artist Gwenno Saunders sure likes big ideas. The Cardiff~based musician’s debut solo album Y Dydd Olaf (“The Final Day”) was a record themed around the 1970s Welsh language sci~fi novel of the same name by Owain Owain, and sung almost entirely in her native tongue. Her new long player Le Kov, by contrast, finds her waxing lyrical about the myths and legends of Cornwall and the role of women in the English county’s rich history. Le Kov is sung in the little~spoken Cornish language — in which Gwenno is fluent, too. To the uninitiated, these ideas might seem obscure or unapproachable. Yet, Gwenno’s records sparkle with sonic innovations and strange, captivating melodies, which make understanding the words unnecessary.
••→ A former member of the indie~pop band The Pipettes, whose sound nodded to 1960s Phil Spector~produced “girl groups,” Gwenno’s solo material instead tends towards the electronic, and psychedelic rock. On 2014’s “Fratolish Hiang Perpeshki,” she funnelled gothic 1980s post~punk and spooky electronics into an addictive and danceable 4/4 pulse. “Dawns Y Blaned Dirion” from Y Dydd Olaf was the glorious meeting point of Boards of Canada or Plone ambient synths and Stereolab~indebted organic bass. Le Kov (which translates as ‘The place of memory’) amplifies the psychotropic elements of its predecessor, drawing on 1960s electronic pioneers such as The United States of America and Delia Derbyshire’s band The White Noise to further develop Gwenno’s own hypnotic sound.
••→ “Hy a Skoellyas Lyf a Dhagrow” begins the record in a spectral fashion, materializing in green mists of synth before solidifying into a gorgeously bittersweet song of soaring string riffs, piano, and a vocal from Gwenno that alternates between whispered words and medieval mysticism. Also the name of a track from Cornish electronic maverick Aphex Twin’s album Drukqs, it translates as “she shed a flood of tears” — and the song’s emotion is starkly apparent whether you understand the lyrics or not.
••→ Singing in Cornish is no cynical angle for Gwenno, but an honest expression of her upbringing and her sense of connection to, and yet distance from, Cornwall. “I was raised entirely in Cornish and Welsh, they were the only languages that we conversed in at home and so I’ve always viewed them both equally,” she has said. “When the time came to start thinking about recording again after touring my last album, Y Dydd Olaf, it just felt like the most natural and obvious thing to do.” The language sounds like a natural accompaniment on “Herdhya” (or ‘pushing’), where Gwenno’s Welsh accent is apparent, but the words are unfamiliar, weaving through a field of reversed guitar and shoegazing synth, reminiscent of a gentler My Bloody Valentine or something from Nathan Fake’s Drowning in a Sea of Love.
••→ With her collaborators on the record, regular producer Rhys Edwards, drum engineer Gorwel Owen and mixer David Wrench, Gwenno invokes a vivid, mysterious and endlessly compelling world of sound. “Jynn~amontya” is a gorgeous piece of exquisitely produced and stately psyche rock. Somewhere between the work of Broadcast, Jane Weaver or BadBadNotGood, it seems designed for hazy warm evenings in the last light of the sun. “Daromres y’n Howl” is a motorik chug of brain~teasing hypnotic details and trippy electronic touches, with Super Furry Animals singer Gruff Rhys contributing guest vocals, and “Hunros” is a swirl of ‘60s melancholia with distorted, subtly wonky keys. That Le Kov is so loaded with meaning and significance adds to its appeal, but ultimately it’s the emotion and sound of the songs that make it such a wonderful and unusual record. ••→ https://www.xlr8r.com/
••→ Gwenno Saunders is a sound artist, DJ, radio presenter and singer from Cardiff.
••→ Gwenno will return in 2018 with a new record titled ‘Le Kov.’ The record will be released on 2nd March and follows 2014’s critically acclaimed ‘Y Dydd Olaf.’
••→ Like her debut, ‘Le Kov’ is a bold statement on the importance of protecting minority languages & has come about with long term collaborator Rhys Edwards.
••→ Where her debut had nine songs in Welsh, the last track ‘Amser’ was in Cornish, and this is where Gwenno continues her trailblazing mission, picking up exactly where ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ left off. Written entirely in Cornish, ‘Le Kov’ translates as “the place of memory”. © Photo credit: Wendy Lynch / Redfern
|Gwenno — Le Kov (March 2, 2018)|