Played Cymru #3: The Best In New Welsh Music

Our regular look at the Welsh music scene...

Creoso! Welcome to Clash’s latest Welsh music roundup. Every month we’re going to be taking a look at the latest essential releases from Welsh artists, with an aim to focus on the country’s most singular and unique rising acts. Wales is a country with a rich recent tradition of alternative music, but our easy-going, sometimes insular nature means we don’t always shout about it. This column is a small attempt to correct that.

Before we get to April’s releases, a few events and launches that took place across the country last month deserve to be highlighted. Cardiff played host to some great mini-festivals, such as Diwyllant and Noizzefest. Huw Stephens’ 6 Music show celebrated Record Store Day with a set from Adwaith in Swansea’s Tangled Parrot and a Nicky Wire interview in Newport’s Diverse Vinyl. A new Cardiff venue in the form of Sustainable Studio opened its doors, while down in Carmarthen, the brilliant Cwrw further cemented its place on the Welsh music circuit with shows from the likes of Monet, Adwaith and Voya.

Then there’s the music itself. Along with great new tracks from Em Koko, Shlug, Georgia Ruth, Paperhouse, Tom Emlyn, Slate, Hana Lilli, James & The Cold Gun, Adwaith, Campfire Social, Obey Cobra, Sybs and countless others, the following albums and EP’s represent Welsh music at its most vital and contemporary. 

Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard – ‘Skinwalker’

In the build-up to Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard’s second album, there was a lot of talk, here in Wales, that the Cardiff four-piece were making a Sabbathian metal album. While the liminal horror-style artwork and spooky title might suggest a shift to the dark side, ‘Skinwalker’ is several degrees too joyous and silly to be classed as ‘metal. Rather, it’s an absurdist glam/psych rock banger with a penchant for fuzz pedals, with highlights ranging from the motorik National Rust to the T. Rex-by-way-of-Osees Sugar Sandwich. A ridiculously fun and expertly-crafted collection.

Aisha Kigs – ‘Fire Hazard’ 

An upbeat delight of an EP, Aisha Kigs has come up with a tight, buoyant and detailed debut collection. The Cardiffian’s blend of future pop, R&B and afrobeats is a lively, colourful work; immaculately-produced and oozing the effortless confidence of an emerging pop star. Naturally, Kigs’ vocals are the star of this vibrant show, switching from rapidfire rapped bars to soaring, layered melodies with the elegant instantaneousness of a well-executed magic trick. A great calling card from a musician who can, and deserves, to go far.

Eye – ‘Dark Light’

The debut solo release from Welsh doom legends Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard vocalist Jessica Ball, ‘Dark Light’ is an engrossing and immersive set of shoegaze-tronica. Ball’s gentle, soulful voice guides these ten spacious tracks, which all show impressive restraint in their deployment of voluminous weight and heavy bludgeon. Most smartly resist the urge to go full doom metal, however, when they do, such as the back-halves of ‘In Your Night’ and ‘See Yourself’, it feels like sticking your head in a tiny black hole.

Rainbow Maniac – ‘RMLP1’

There’s few more wholesome feelings than when a beloved local band returns from the grave. Rainbow Maniac were big boys of the pre-COVID Cardiff music scene, but called it quits before their debut full-length ever saw the light of the day. That was until, in March 2024, the band announced the LP would be released, as label Phwoar & Peace’s final release. It’s a belter of a record, brimming with cheeky charisma and youthful vigour. The band also accompanied the release with a one-off show in Clwb Ifor Bach, with ticket proceeds going to Cardiff Dogs Home. An all-round lovely story, eh?

Hel Clecs – ‘S.A.N.D. (Soulful Art Never Dies)’

Hel Clecs are a fascinating collaboration between Welsh beatbox legend Mr. Phormula and American MC Lord Willin. Both are underground grafters, with the latter boasting a huge discography and the former a winner of various 2010’s live looping competitions. ‘S.A.N.D.’ is their second Hel Clecs EP; a commanding collection of visceral modern rap with a uniquely dense and bass-heavy scope that recalls El-P’s Run The Jewels production. The accents and timbres of each MC make for a great match-up and ensure ‘S.A.N.D.’ stands tall as a gritty, enjoyable transatlantic rap EP.

Lurcher – ‘Breathe’

In last month’s column I discussed Goat Major’s latest album and noted the doom/stoner rock microscene that’s currently bubbling away in West Wales. Signed to excellent metal label Trepanation Records, Lurcher are three-piece whose second EP ‘Breathe’ employs a similarly airy take on doom/stoner as Goat Major, minus the occult aesthetics. ‘Breathe’ offers four stellar mini-epics, driven by Soundgarden-esque vocals and relaxed-but-heavy chugging riffs that arrive on the shore with the same force the West Walian waves on the EP’s cover.

Wrkhouse – ‘Out of the Blue’

Wrkhouse are moving fast. The aptly-named ‘Out of the Blue’ is the North Walian four-piece’s debut EP, yet they’ve rapidly built up a UK-wide fanbase, selling out recent shows in Manchester, Dalston and Cardiff. Their brand of synth-heavy, ultra-modern indie pop recalls Foals, The 1975 and myriad other massive bands of similar ilk. ‘Out Of The Blue’ is an uber-confident debut release, packed full of emotive anthems that drip with glossy textures and well-handled bombastic builds and releases. Tipped as one of BBC Cymru’s ‘5 acts to watch in 2023’, Wrkhouse have all the ingredients to become the next big band in Wales’ Royston Club, Catfish & The Bottlemen etc. indie lineage.

Words: Tom Morgan

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