A charming, subversive debut...
'Gwenno'

The last time a Welsh-language record made a significant impact on the UK's album charts was 15 years ago. It was Super Furry Animal's recently re-issued 'Mwng', an acoustic effort with political undercurrents.

The debut LP from Gwenno Saunders (formerly of The Pipettes) is, on the surface, nothing like it. It's glittering and electronic, its lyrics and title inspired by Owain Owain's dystopian science fiction novel, and its melodies underpinned with discordant notes and bric-à-brac sonic oddities - but it shares a similarly subversive edge to that record.

You'll likely have heard opener 'Chwyldro' by now. It's been all over the radio, and with good reason. It's a terrific pop song; bright and sunny and just strange enough to make your ears prick up. The title means "revolution" and the record is full of double meanings and apocalyptic allusions, though many of these will go under the audience's radar.

Instead, you're more likely to be focusing on Saunders' lovely vocals and the innovative production. Like the recent Jane Weaver album, this is a musically adventurous record that's sugared by its pop sensibility. 'Patriarchaeth' bends and flexes around some rubbery synths, before changing into a soaring sing-a-long – it's about the crushing grip of the patriarchy. 'Stwff' pulls a similar trick, its cheeriness masking a song about trying (and failing) to fit in.

The closing 'Amser' shifts to Cornish and ends the record in a tumble of warped piano. "Ma'nn amser ow slynkya dhy vaes/The time is slipping away," goes the final line. It's a glum lament on a debut that often sounds anything but.

8/10

Words: Will Salmon

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