Archives for posts with tag: Welsh psych pop

Islet is a Welsh experimental psychedelic-electronic trio from Powys and their most recent album “Eyelet” is an intriguing journey through their hyper-active imaginations. Here’s the opening track “Caterpillar”:

“Caterpillar” starts with a woozy slow vibrato strummed guitar chord like an LP pressed off-center, before bass, percussion and other noises layers up and Emma Daman Thomas weaves a dreamy caterpillar-paced reflection on the larval pre-metamorphic state of being. Or something like that. “Caterpillar” is fitting entry point for an album where songs often change shape from familiar terrestrial beginnings to become the most extraordinary patterned creatures which then fly into the sun.

The opening song, and then the whole album, creates its own weirdly unusual-yet-familiar world-within-a-world while sounding like nothing much else. Yet Islet’s “Eyelet” (everyone loves a good homophone word-play) is likely to hold instinctive appeal to anyone who loves the music of the likes of Goldfrapp, Jane Weaver, Broadcast, Boards of Canada, Melody’s Echo Chamber, Vanishing Twin, Molly Nilsson, and even Primal Scream circa “Screamadelica”.

The trio of Emma and Mark Daman Thomas, and Alex Williams combine analogue and electronic instruments, voices, sampled sounds and reality-warping effects to create a hyper-saturated and exhilarating psychedelic pop fantasia.

Islet offer an intriguing back-catalogue as well, with two albums (Illuminated People, 2012 and Released By The Movement, 2013) and several EPs on their own label, Shape Records prior to this Fire Records release. Islet’s most recent release prior to the album was the 2016 EP “Liquid Half Moon”.

There’s a lot to love about this album, but right now the unpredictability of the songs and sounds is something special – and (serious) fun. Nothing runs a predictable course. A song that starts out like a fairly conventional kind of lo-fi synth pop or electronic dance tune will eventually change shape and spin out into a crushing-live-drums-with-samples sonic mélange that spirals off in unexpected directions.

Cate Le Bon Crab Day

Cate Le Bon brings her unique music stylings to Dunedin Tuesday 19 February with a piano-based performance which promises to provide an intimate and idiosyncratic gateway to her impressive song-list. Here’s “Wonderful” from her most recent album “Crab Day”.

Early albums “Me Oh My” (2009) and “Cyrk” (2012) were notionally folk, or neo-folk, or maybe psych-folk (or all of the above). “Mug Museum” (2013) started to expand the pop and rock elements in the sound much more.

All the albums pull in many directions. “Crab Day” is the most exploratory and intriguing; a kind of artful and fruity avant-garde psych-pop. In the same way that the likes of Robert Wyatt and Brian Eno, in their early exploratory solo music-making forms would confound familiar tropes while creating brilliant unusual avant-pop, Cate Le Bon also inhabits her own stylistic universe. It’s delightfully perverse experimental pop-craft, packed full of imaginative lyrics, melodies and arrangements. The subsequent EP “Rock Pool” (“the killed darlings from the “Crab Day” sessions”) is an essential addition.

There’s a distinctly experimental kind of oddness running through most of the music I’ve heard over the years from musicians from Wales. John Cale is probably the best known from his time in the Velvet Underground and string of classic solo albums starting in the 70s (“Paris 1919” is a great starting point if you are unfamiliar). Then in the 1980s it was the turn of post-punks Datblygu (a kind of Welsh-language equivalent of The Fall), followed by the extraordinary Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci in the 1990s then Super Furry Animals, each pushing their takes on psychedelic folk and rock out into space.

Here’s “Wonderful” performed live in the Radio K (KUOM) studio in Minnesota in 2016.

Cate le bon NZ tour

Cate Le Bon Rock PoolI first heard this fabulously psychedelic Cate Le Bon song a few months ago but it’s taken until now to discover it is on Bandcamp, the title track of a 4 song EP released at the end of January this year.

There’s much about the music on this EP that reminds me of the weirdness of fellow Welsh psychedelic adventurers Gorkys Zygotic Mynci and also a kind of sparse and folkish take on the playful astral psych of Super Furry Animals.

But in “Rock Pool” in particular Cate Le Bon somehow manages to (accidentally?) evoke the kind of whimsical surrealist psychedelia of the likes of early 70s Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers. Turns out the tracks are all out-takes from her recent album “Crab Days”. Or as Cate explains them: “”Rock Pool” is the killed darlings from the Crab Day sessions brought back to life on a classic 2-2 formation. Written under the same banner of the impossibly absurd and emerging to unimaginable bedlam.” 

Now a bit of exploration of the entire Cate Le Bon back catalogue is required…