A Letter From... Wales #5

The latest new music...
Man Without Country

The weather may be terrible, the novelty Christmas jumpers already creeping towards the front of your wardrobe and the festival season over, but not in wonderful Wales (well, only really the festival bit. The weather isn’t looking too great here either).

Swn festival (pronounced ‘soon’) returns to Cardiff between October 18th - 21st for its sixth year. Forget dragging your pop-up tent and four crates of Strongbow, Swn (meaning ‘sound’) is an inner-city festival held across venues such as pubs, clubs and the student union. So unless you fancy braving a campsite, in October, in south Wales, I suggest you find a sofa or a B&B to crash in.

There are over 150 acts playing across the weekend from Wales, the rest of the UK and further afield. And the focus is on new music. Some of the ‘bigger’ acts playing this year’s festival include The Cribs, Django Django, Dry the River, Peace, Errors, The Invisible and Pulled Apart by Horses. As the festival is held in Wales, you can obviously expect some great up-and-coming Welsh artists and Swn favourites.

Returning from last year, the twee and quirky Sweet Baboo enchanted crowds with his humorous ditties and Al Lewis and his band had everyone dancing to his bilingual folk-pop in a very warm Clwb Ifor Bach (Welsh Club). Man Without Country’s glittering synths, pulsating drum patterns and nods towards M83 and Sigur Ros meant for an intense, immersive and darkly euphoric live show.

Man Without Country 'Inflammable Heart'

This year, you can expect a lot of energy from post-hardcore, post-punk Welsh band Kutosis and local Cardiffians Islet are guaranteed to entertain with their melody-driven, serious psychedelic pop. Moving away from Wales, London-based Clock Opera might bring along their tattoo needles and game of Operation to play their distinctive indie ‘chop pop’. You may find yourself running around Cardiff for four days in an attempt to see everyone you planned, but you’ll see some great music in unexpected, intimate venues and acquaint yourself with the city. Bonus. For more information, the full line-up and tickets, head to the Swn website: swnfest.com. ------ Isn’t Wales lucky at this time of year? Not only do we have Swn festival around the corner, but we also have the Welsh Music Prize. The shortlist is already out and the winner will be announced on October 18th – coinciding with the start of Swn. Only in its second year, the award in 2011 went to Gruff Rhys for his album, ‘Hotel Shampoo’.

Gruff Rhys - Hotel Shampoo

The Welsh Music Prize was created by Radio 1’s Huw Stephens and music industry expert, John Rostron. This year, the winner will be decided by a panel of 12 judges, who range from Mike Williams, NME editor, to Richard King, author of ‘How Soon is Now’ and Peredur ap Gwynedd, a member of Pendulum.

Some of the twelve shortlisted artists you will have heard of and some, you probably won’t. There’s Los Campesinos! and Kids in Glass Houses to pastoral folk artists like Huw M and Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog. The full shortlist looks like this:

Bright Light Bright Light - Make Me Believe in Hope

90s pop! Polished production with plenty of drum patterns, piano loops and euphoric choruses.

Cate Le Bon - CYRK

Dreamy pastoral folk. Le Bon’s lulling voice drifts over songs which seem to move in their own time.

Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog - Draw Dros Y Mynydd

A blend of country, folk and rock.

Exit_International - Black Junk

Rhythmic art punk by two bassists, a drummer and a screamer.

Future of the Left - The Plot Against Common Sense

Synthed-up post-punk. Future of the Left still manage to amuse with their wonderfully anti-climatic lyrics.

Huw M - Gathering Dusk

Bilingual folk. Huw M can surprise with his unusual harmonies and wistful Welsh voice.

Islet - Illuminated People

Psychedelic pop from a band who are clearly making music for themselves.

Jodie Marie - Mountain Echo Rich, bluesy pop with smoky tones from a young Welsh singer who has a B&B owner to thank for her getting signed.

Kids in Glass Houses - In Gold Blood

Alternative pop rock that shows maturity and progression from the band’s previous releases.

Kutosis - Fanatical Love

Post-punk. An album that sounds like they’ve been making albums for years.

Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness

Dark indie pop. The band’s fourth album is arguably the darkest yet, but as usual it is lifted by Gareth Campesinos’ wry humour.

Truckers of Husk - Accelerated Learning

Prog-rock of sorts. A mainly instrumental album filled with unusual time signatures and the occasional sorrowful saxophone and soaring strings. Until next time, when Swn will be a distant memory and we’ll have the winner of the second Welsh Music Prize.

Photo Credit: Robert Bellamy

Words by Rachael Hogg

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