From their inception, to the release of their Welsh Music Prize winning debut ‘Melyn’ in 2018, and all that has followed for them since, Adwaith (Hollie Singer, Gwenllian Anthony, Heledd Owen) have proved themselves to be a monumental force coming out of the burgeoning Welsh language music scene. Close to four years since the first record, a period defined by the strengths of their musical prowess, and the drawbacks of isolation, the band have returned with their much-anticipated sophomore effort ‘Bato Mato’.
Taking its name from their trusty guide while aboard the Trans-Siberian Express, the album possesses a seemingly cosmic connection to their journey across the frozen outer-reaches of Russia; an allegory for the sonic character of its material, while foreshadowing the glimpses of isolation upon their return home. Despite an initial handful of songs, written off the back of Melyn, the band decided to ditch prior efforts in favour of a sound that would better reflect their experiences across Siberia, and the stark reality of an impending adulthood.
Toying with an arsenal of vibrant themes and bold motifs, Bato Mato sets out on an ambitious trip across a visceral, oft-psychedelic landscape, each track a mesmerising stop on the way to its cathartic destination.
Setting a defiant tone from the get-go, ‘Cuddio’ (Hiding) sweeps across heavy dream pop sensibilities, grounded by the immense thump of Anthony’s driven bass line, while ethereal vocals from Singer settle satisfyingly atop fuzz-laden foundations. The album is full to the brim with electric stompers of a similar ilk; the light and shade of recent single ‘Nid Aur’ (Not Gold) sporting frenetic drums from Owen and a punk energy akin to The Breeders, while album highlight ‘Sudd’ (Juice) unleashes a psychedelic beast onto an infinite horizon, at times reminiscent of Krautrock.
On the one hand, the production value spanning ‘Bato Mato’ is bold and particularly well-polished, lending the aforementioned tracks an immense sonic platform. On the other, the album highlights delicate arrangements in steadier moments, which in turn allow its characteristically contemplative lyrics to shine. ‘Amser Codi Lan’ (Time To Get Up) presents a heartfelt introspection surrounding depression and recovery, its lush progression adding poignancy, while its occasional helter skelter chromatisms introduce an off-kilter trepidation. Meanwhile tracks like ‘Bywyd Syml’ (Simple Life) and ‘Anialwch’ (Desert) incorporate whispered hints of noire, flavours of grunge and dream pop, and an overarching bluesy angst.
Upon reaching its destination with the anthemic ‘ETO’ (Again), the album brings to light its true cathartic vision in full harmony. ‘Bato Mato’ is in many ways a post-coming of age story, beautifully grounded by a poignancy reminiscent of the band’s journey aboard the Trans-Siberian Express, and the gradual easing of isolation. The record triumphantly situates Adwaith amongst pop heavyweights, proving the vitality of Welsh language music on an international stage, and calling the musical authority of the English language into long overdue question.
Words: Kieran Macdonald-Brown