Played Cymru #2: The Best In New Welsh Music

From liminal jazz to club tropes via guitar pop...

Creoso! Welcome to Clash’s latest Welsh music roundup. Every month we’re going to be casting an eye across the new music that’s bubbling away beneath the land of chiselled valleys, industrial towns and spectacular coastlines. Wales might be small, but music courses through its anthracite veins.

March is the month we celebrate St. David’s Day, however, a range of great events and launches also took place up and down the country. Beacons Cymru hosted its Resonant x Basecamp event in Aberystwyth; a day of talks and performances aimed at people of marginalised genders. In Newport, the new 500-capacity Corn Exchange formerly opened its doors with a show headlined by The Bug Club. In Swansea, the new magazine Ababcb launched its third issue, featuring a host of local musicians and artists. Then, in less celebratory news, Cardiff label Phwoar & Peace announced an indefinite hiatus, although the reveal came with the exciting news that they’d be putting out the final album from Cardiff’s now-defunct Rainbow Maniac.

Alongside all this came a host of great and eclectic releases. From spiritual jazz to doom metal, instrumental hip-hop to noise pop, the following list surveys eight of the best albums and EP’s released by Welsh artists in March 2024. Across them all, a theme gradually emerges; that of a music culture defined by its curiosity and open-mindedness.

Amanda Whiting – ‘The Liminality of Her’

The harp is Wales’ national instrument, but rarely has any Welsh musician utilised it like Amanda Whiting. Her latest, ‘The Liminality of Her’ is an extraordinary jazz album, blending contemporary nu jazz cool with spiritual jazz elegance. Whiting’s playing is firmly in the Coltrane/Ashby vein, guiding the serene but potent, dense but gentle highlights like ‘Nomad’ and ‘Intertwined’ to heavenly heights. Features from the likes of Chip Wickham and Wales’ own Don Leisure (more on whom soon) are cherries on this gorgeous cake, helping make ‘The Liminality of Her’ a uniquely rapturous highlight of UK jazz in 2024.

Shell – ‘The Need to Separate’

While there’s plenty of bands out there doing the ‘grungegaze’ thing, some come across as kind of inert. South Wales’ Shell do not suffer this issue. Their second release ‘The Need to Separate’ is an energetic mini-album built on crisp production and devastating heft. In the background of these six tracks lies the four-piece’s secret weapon: a succession of simple, stunning guitar leads that reverberate like half-forgotten memories. Wales has quite the history with emo and it feels like the still-young Shell could slot comfortably into this lineage. Shout out to that great cover art too.

Don Leisure – ‘Coconut Incense Vol. 2’

In last month’s column I sang the praises of Earl Jeffers, who is one half of the excellent Darkhouse Family, alongside the equally prolific Don Leisure. Signed to First Word Records (the same label as the aforementioned Amanda Whiting, with whom he collaborated on a 2023 full-length) Leisure has spent the last decade putting out a succession of excellent beat tapes. His latest is ‘Coconut Incense Vol. 2’ – another collection of dusty sampledelica that ranges from the mellow hip-hop of ‘Wiltshire Blvd’ to more psychedelic fare like ‘Cone High’. Anything Leisure does is interesting, and you get the sense there’s even greater music to come from him.

Murder Club – ‘Night Out’ EP

Hailing from the city of Newport, which is having something of a musical renaissance thanks to venues like Le Pub, The Cab and the new Corn Exchange, Murder Club are a self-titled “sugarpunk” four-piece with a knack for clever lyrics and sambuca-sweet harmonies. Their debut EP on Venn Records is as a triptych themed around a night out, told from a distinctly feminine perspective and with clear-headed honesty. Opener ‘Pictures Of Myself’ is the excitable/nervous pre-drinks, ‘Shots?!’ the joyous early chaos and ‘Crybaby’ the heart-broken ride home. A smartly structured and effortlessly engaging release.

Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog – ‘Mynd â’r tŷ am dro’

Without trying to make them sound like a novelty act, the elevator pitch for Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog is pretty fun. They’re a cult, Welsh-language alt-country trio of brothers hailing from the village Rhos Botwnnog on the isolated Llyn Peninsula. ‘Mynd â’r tŷ am dro’ (translation: ‘Taking The House For A Walk’) is their first studio album since 2016’s ‘IV’ and serves up an even more ornate and delicate slice of Americana. The languid pace and lap-steel guitars of lead single ‘Adenydd’ epitomise the album’s milieu; a rural Americana aesthetic that will make sense to anyone who’s ever travelled the similarly remote corners of North Wales.

Angharad – ‘Motherland’

The Welsh make frequent use of the term ‘motherland’ in reference to their country and, as far as this writer is aware of, no musician has made such vivid and intelligent use of it as a metaphor as Angharad on her debut full-length. Slippery baroque pop in the vein of Wales’ own Cate Le Bon and GwennoAngharad (who’s also a member of folk band Calan) uses ‘Motherland’ to explore fascinating questions surrounding identity and womanhood. Some bold left-turns such as the confrontational ‘Postpartum’ and groovy ‘Because I’m A Woman’ contribute to ‘Motherland’ status as an accomplished debut from an exciting new voice.

Goat Major – ‘Ritual’

Wales doesn’t have the most extensive history in regards to doom metal, however there’s currently an intriguing micro-scene bubbling away in West Wales. Along with the likes of the more expansive Lurcher and weirder Gabe Is A UnitGoat Major have made a name for themselves as top-drawer purveyors of monstrous riffs and evil atmospheres. ‘Ritual’ is their debut full-length – eight giddily fun cuts of doomy heaviness that will chime with fans of Green LungWindhand, Monolord and

other bands that wear denim vests and sing about occult sacrifices. For those seeking more contemporary Welsh doom; check out this great compilation.

Midding – ‘Kitchen Song’

An intriguing debut from the young Midding, ‘Kitchen Song’ is somehow both tough to get a handle on and strangely engrossing. A raw, lo-fi effort from the Cardiff band (who feature members of rising post-punks Enabling Behaviour and the now-defunct Clwb Fuzz), these scratchy, opaque nine tracks amalgamate the history of lo-fi, from noise pop to no wave to hypnagogic pop. Their Spotify profile features a live shot taken in Cardiff’s dark, ex-industrial arts space Shift, which encapsulates Midding’s weird and seductive vibe.

Words: Tom Morgan

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