There are bands from Wales and there are Welsh bands. The former have absorbed the same influences as everyone else, perhaps with a Welsh accent. The Welsh bands sound only like themselves and possess a certain Celtic vision – poetic, supernatural, strange – generated by the landscape of Cymru. That many of them are first language Welsh emphasises the links to their historic lands but even some of those that aren’t have that otherness that makes their music so compelling. Gorky’s and the Super Furries are two, Cate Le Bon and H Hawkline two more (plus Stephen ‘Sweet Baboo’ Black who produced Organ Calzone) and fitting right in is Tender Prey, a.k.a. Laura Bryon, a.k.a. Le B, another new name to add to the roster.
The overwhelming sense is strangeness. The music is stark and mimimal. ‘Pleasure Pain Principle’ sounds like the Headcoatees but the sound is simpler on other songs, perhaps just a plain bluesy riff or stripped back rockabilly rhythm accompanying the words. And what words! ‘Gravy Plate’ is a smattering of guitar plus rhythmic electronic stomping as Laura recites a sort-of-love-song composed of metaphors (and, to be fair, love is occasionally like an asthma attack), including the assertive come on: “”don’t you know that I would lick you/ just like gravy off a plate”. ‘Night Talking’ is similarly intense, sounding like Polly Harvey for honesty and Cate le Bon for oddness, while ‘The Tequila Worm’ is subversive pop-poetry (“we drink to forget/ we drink to dance/ we drink to forget again”). The arrangements give the songs greater variety, from the Fall-ish rockabilly of ‘Undisputed Heavyweight Champion Of My Heart’ to the bramble-tangled guitars and multitracked voices of ‘Bug Blood’. ‘Velvetine’ combines styles, part indie-folk and part post-punk, in darkly poetic fashion: “I’ve worn this mood before/ it clothes my heart in shadows”.
And that sort of language only lives in Wales, where something breeds a singular outlook that, applied to music, creates refracted and recalibrated pop that is nonetheless completely compelling.