top of page

Sprung From The Valleys On Musical Wings


Starring


Audrey Carmes, Carwyn Ellis, Julia Byrne, Kreidler, Sylvie


The Front Runners


Ni A Nhw : Carwyn Ellis


This almost unbearably sweet collection of Carwyn Ellis rarities is to be treasured and loved. It’s not even the end of January yet, but I may just have found my album of 2024.


Occasionally I stumble across an infuriating record that is so good, all I can do is gush. This is one of those. It’s described as a collection of rarities. A cynic might regard that as another word for outtakes that either didn’t fit, or weren’t regarded as good enough for headline releases. The cynics are wrong. These songs are the equivalent of building your Second XI around the likes of Mess and Mbappe. They’ve remain hidden like buried treasure.


It’s an eye watering, lovely collection, full of innocence, charm, melancholy and gorgeous, uplifting melody. There’s an instrumental (‘Canol Gaeaf Noethlwm’), a remix (by Begin of the Colorama song ‘Hapus’ ) and one song sung in English (‘Valley Song’). The rest is sung in Welsh. I have no idea what he’s singing about, but it’s magical. The tenderness and sincerity of ‘Ti’ is unmistakable, as it is with all the songs. There’s something about Welsh that fits the music of, say, ‘Gair O Gysur’ so naturally it feels that the song must have been around for centuries. That gives this album, full of songs taken from various stages in his career a completely cohesive feel.


There are too many highlights here. ‘Gorffenaf’ is a ridiculously catchy  dose of innocent singalong cheer from the same stable as French ye-ye music, or Andy Williams’ ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You’ and ‘Watching the Girls Go By’. The melancholy melody of ‘Llythr Y Glower’ is not the only time that I felt moved to the brink of happy tears of gratitude. With the female vocals of his Bendith years, ‘Can Am Gariod’ took me there too. ‘Kerro’, is like a breath of warm air that will, somehow, make everything that is troubling you feel alright.


‘Canol Gaeaf Noethlwm’ is a beautiful variation on ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ quietly showcasing his musicianship.The simple, lilting melody of ‘Valley’ is a hymn to his homeland. The remix of ‘Hapus?’, an earlier Colorama song, could have been a misstep. It’s not. Following on from everything that has come before, it shows that these songs work well with a more modern setting. They are genuinely timeless. 


It’s a wonderful world that has this music in it. This is a collection that lands like an unexpected reward. It’s the best album he’s ever made.


Taster Track : Almost impossible to choose, but I’m opting for ‘Kerro’. 




The Chasing Pack


Quelquechose S’East Dissipe : Audrey Carmes


Ambient experimentation in French. Some people will find three reasons there not to listen to this album. For those that give it a go there are definitely some rewards to be had if you’re patient.


This is music that comes with the shock of the early impressionist paintings. There are no shapes or edges, just elements. Like fish in a murky pool, fragments of melody occasionally brush the surface before dissipating or mutating away. Tracks merge, one into the other, any transitions being as much a part of your listening as the decisions of the musician or producer.


It can be clever and frustrating in equal measure. This is an enforced slow down of a record. It’s the musical equivalent of staring out of the window and absorbing everything on display but processing none of it. Give it time to work and it soothes and restores the soul. It’s highly pleasant but occasionally you find yourself impatient to move on.


It sets out its stall from the start. ‘Micro - Macro’ is intriguing but bigger on effects than on tune. The synthetic glockenspiel adds atmosphere to ‘Tout Est Deja La’ as does the sound of the siren’s backing vocals (The sirens of Jason and the Argonauts that is, not the ones that signalled WW2 bombers.) All its effects are gentle, for example the pattering beats of ‘Tout Temps’. Somehow though she manages to create a sense of urgency in ‘Octobre’. 


It achieves what it says on the label. Dissipation is key to its effect. There’s a flicker of bass rhythm to draw attention to ‘Par La Fenetre’ but it soon disappears. ‘Une Recherche’ has a sensory effect in its aquarium bubbles and a melody that you long to grab and treasure beyond the few seconds it’s within reach.


It’s an indulgence to spend 45 minutes in the company of this record, but it’s one worth sampling.


Taster Track : Recherche




The Greater Wings : Julia Byrne


Here’s an intense collection of electro acoustic sounds with something to say. There’s not much lightness to leaven the road though.


The Greater Wings is an album that compels attention. It’s serious and sombre stuff, the equivalent of a long black and white film in a language you can't understand where you can’t work out if anything much is happening. These are songs like mystics who are determined to be taken seriously. 


They’re also songs that look in two directions at the same time. In one direction they explore her thoughts on personal relationships. Facing in the opposite direction she focuses on our relationship with the environment. Sometimes one is used as a metaphor for the other. It’s an album that can cause you to feel uncomfortable, even guilty, if you don’t like it.


Musically, I won’t deny that it’s technically up there with the best. Finger plucked guitar is almost shorthand for saying this is serious music. The short, tinkling cascade of harp in Summer’s End serves as a mid way palate cleanser. The synths are used to good effect. ‘Conversations In A Flow State’ is sombre and brooding.


The problem I have with this album, and maybe you will too, is that in a flow state you’re buzzing and in the zone. There’s a tremendous energy and a real sense of excitement but I get none of that  from this album. It’s a harsh thing to say but it drags you down.


The lyrics don’t help to overcome that. They’re dense like poetry and I can admire them for that but I can’t love them. The only song with a melody to snag the attention is the opening title track ‘The Greater Wings’. In some ways that’s unfortunate. It sets expectations that aren’t realised in the songs that follow.


I miss any euphoria at the thought of ‘Hope’s Return’, although at least that generates some energy along its course. Just a few splashes of more overt melody would help to float the songs along.


She comes across as a gentler, less emotional Patti Smith. Sometimes, though, what you need is a healthy roar of feeling to bring the music alive and that’s what missing from this.


I’ve been harsh. Pitchfork loved it and gave it a score of 8.5. Their review is Pitchfork The Greater Wings Review.


Taster Track : The Greater Wings


(This review was completed after listening to the album without the benefit of a press release to give the context. That’s how most of us listen to music. We hear something in a review that tempts us and stream it directly from Spotify. Pitchfork’s review makes it clear that the album was written while grieving. I wish I’d known that. I would have approached it with different ears. Or, perhaps, I wouldn’t have approached it at all.)




Twists ( A Visitor Arrives) : Kreidler


When people talk about German electronica this may be what they hear in their head. It captures its essence brilliantly. The question is, will it be too strong a taste for some?


Across a full album this is relentless and functional. On ‘Artihmetique’ it’s urgent, propulsive but unsettling. The album is one that throbs, pulses and carries a sense of threat that quickens your fight or flight responses. That’s just in ‘Diver’. 


From ‘Diver’ you also hear the other German quality everyone knows - efficiency. Kreidler act as a unit, knowing immediately and exactly what is needed at any point of the song. (It probably takes a lot of practice and studio time to sound that instinctive.)


As you enter the middle passage of the album with ‘Loisaida Sisters’ you may start to feel that this is a little too alienating, a little too devoid of human warmth. That’s German electronica for you.. It’s unlikely to be the music for someone's first wedding dance.


Equally, though, you can’t deny that Kreidler have created something imaginative and thrilling. ‘Polaris’ is dark and threatening like an army on the move at night under unseen air cover. Even the brass effects bring a sense of foreboding. It’s powerful stuff. The bass foundations to ‘Tanger Telex’ are sinuous but lethal like a coiled snake or tarantula’s web. The rhythm of ‘Kandili’ brings something exotic to the mix. ‘Hopscotch’ bring in a catchier element and by this stage of the album it’s welcome.


You can’t knock a band for delivering their style of music so perfectly. It’s worth a listen for that alone. 


Taster Track : Tanger Telex




Sylvie : Sylvie


Americana with an interesting backstory makes for an EP that is well worth a listen.


So the story goes, according to their Spotify bio, John Schwab and his band ‘Mad Anthony’ sat down in a barn many years ago and recorded a handful of songs. You won’t have heard of him or them as they never secured a recording contract. Decades later,  his son Ben discovered them neatly packed away when the family moved to Ohio. They became his inspiration, both to ensure that the songs were finally recorded and to spark his own band - Sylvie - to chase down the sound and feel of those original demos.


It’s unsurprising then that the sound of that era is all over this EP. This is the sound of Sunday morning 1975, mellow like a spring sun after the wind has dropped. It’s a mix of  Memphis Horns and country slide guitars.


There’s a bit of 21st century trickery in play too. The final track incorporates a telephone conversation where Schwab senior explains the find to his son. There’s a change in attitudes too. In 1975, ‘Falls On Me’ would have been the tale of a man deciding to stay with his woman. In 2024, it’s sung by a woman, underscoring the change in our social times.


It’s an unhurried 5 track EP. ‘Rosaline’ captures that best. ‘Shooting Stars’ sounds like a more modern song, almost dream pop with a country flavour. It says something of the power of the surrounding songs that, whilst very pleasant, it’s also the least convincing track here.


So, settle back and wallow in the lazy mood of 1975. It feels like a minor part of pop history.


Taster Track : Fall On Me.




Playlists


As ever this week's Taster Track playlists can be accessed at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7cSveL7NpVp1xgrKxPe4av?si=SkFlSnvySeuYFpgG0WJFmA or via the Spotify link on the Home Page.



Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page