9Bach – Anian (2016)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/88,2 kHz | Time – 50:27 minutes | 880 MB | Genre: Folk
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: B&W | Digital Booklet | © Real World Records
Anian is the third release from Welsh artists 9Bach, and the most interesting to date from Lisa Jên, Martin Hoyland and company.
While Wales has been producing musical innovators for some time now, the image of miners’ choirs hasn’t faded. (I had to mention them again!) Welsh-language folk and pop rock also suffers from an image problem, compared to say Ireland, that of not being known — and when known, thought to be somewhat derivative of either Irish ‘Celtic’ music or UK pop. The innovators haven’t often made their voice heard outside of Wales.
With 9Bach, and Anian in particular, it becomes more and more difficult for the listening public to write off Welsh language music as parochial and predictable. On the contrary, this record manages to stay rooted in Bethesda, North Wales, while breaking into new global territory. Lisa Jên is certainly possessed of fine vocal talents, a wide range and expressive voice, which at times is reminiscent of Siân James (for instance, on the lovely “Ambell Hiraeth”), the great Welsh singer and harpist who receives an acknowledgement on the disc.
Hoyland is a guitar innovator who sometimes pushes too hard to get a sound (a little scrappy on the otherwise flawless “Breuddwyd y Bardd”) but generally makes full use of his instrument. Ali Byworth (drums and percussion), and Dan Swain (bass) provide a solid foundation (and some lovely, rumbling moments from Swain), while Esyllt Glyn Jones (harp), and Mirain Haf Roberts (voice and hammer dulcimer) complete the sound.
This is a pensive, sometimes mysterious disc, with a sound all its own, and starts in the depths of “Llyn Du” the black lake of Caradog Pritchard’s novel “Un Nos ala Lleuad” (One Moonlit Night). “Ifan” about a boy raised in the wild by wolves, is another strange tale. For comparison, we have to reach back many years to Loreena McKennitt, the Canadian singer and harpist who recorded “Parallel Dreams” with the late Oliver Schroer in the late 80s. The trancelike, repetitive Celtic-Med fusion of that album came to my mind, at least, and so did Elena Ledda, when I listened here to the Greek-influenced “Cyfaddefa.”
Play this disc when you can really listen: there is more than meets the ear first time round. Memorable moments include Byworth and Swain grooving along with the vocals leading “Cyfaddedfa” to a stunning conclusion; Lisa Jen’s rippling piano riff combines with the vocals and the dulcimer on “Ifan” ; “Anian” with its funky intro, and “Yr Olaf” with its rolling bass line. The disc concludes with the gorgeous melody of “Breuddwyd y Bardd” where Lisa Jên’s evocative singing brings the poet’s dream to life.
The second disc, In Your Voice, is an interpretive aid and a work of art in itself, a series of English-language interpretations of the songs, read by such as actor Rhys Ifans and Real World’s Peter Gabriel. At times the text approach the poetics of Dylan Thomas, as in Ifans’s reading of “Anian” (which means nature or temperament). A nice note is the dedication to Welsh folklorist Meredydd Evans (Mêred) and his immense influence on the recovery of national traditions in Wales.
The eleven music tracks, plus twelve on In Your Voice and interpretive booklet make a nice CD package; the only thing missing is the Welsh-language song lyrics. – David Cox
1. Llyn Du 3’47
2. Anian 4’19
3. Yr Olaf 4’29
4. Ifan 4’53
5. Si Hwi Hwi 7’03
6. Cyfaddefa 5’31
7. Brain 4’27
8. Heno 3’52
9. Deryn 5’10
10. Ambell Hiraeth 3’23
11. Breuddwyd Y Bardd 3’33
Ali Byworth, drums, percussion
Dan Swain, bass guitar & double bass
Esyllt Glyn Jones, harp, vocals
Lisa Jên, vocals
Martin Hoyland, guitars & hammer dulcimer
Mirain Haf Roberts, vocals, piano & hammer dulcimer