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September 2019
Review

Gwenno - Le Kov

A treat.
Gwenno - Le Kov
Published: 11:04 am, February 28, 2018
A treat.

Label: Heavenly Recordings
Released: 2nd March 2018
Rating: ★★★★

Taking the themes of a 1970s Welsh sci-fi novel as a jumping-off point, former Pipette Gwenno Saunders’ 2015 ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ was a cosmic marriage of motorik future-pop and the outer limits of Welsh psych. Exploring the unstoppable progress of tech and the desire to keep minority languages and cultures alive, nine tracks were in Welsh, with the final ‘Amser’ deviating from this, setting one of her father’s Cornish-language poems to music.

Continuing to explore similar territories, ‘Le Kov’ (‘The Place of Memory’) is sung entirely in Cornish, whose speakers number in the hundreds, a language reclassified from “extinct” as recently as 2010. But rather than being a distancing thing, ‘Le Kov’ invites us in, with a bewitching, otherworldly, sound palette, only enhanced by the unfamiliar tongue. ‘Hi a Skoellyas Liv a Dhagrow’ (‘She Shed A Flood Of Tears’), opening, immediately warms ‘...Olaf’’s more skeletal electronics with echo-drenched, dreamlike keys and a swirl of soundtrack strings, like being steadily sucked into a velvet whirlpool.

And the propulsive but plaintive ‘Tir Ha Mor’’s (‘Land And Sea’) synths tinkle like a sunbeam glistening off the tips of lapping waves. It’s a tribute, we’re told, to the St Ives-born painter Peter Lanyon, who took - ill-fatedly - to a glider to learn more about the landscape, and swoops and soars where the dream-popping ‘Herdhya’ (‘Pushing’) remains tied to the land and “the feeling of isolation after the Brexit vote”.

As she did with its predecessor, it’s likely Saunders will provide translated lyrics for ‘Le Kov’, but even without, the titles and the sounds she’s conjured speak clearly. ‘Eus Keus?’ - based on an idiom about cheese - is playful as it might be; ‘Jynn-amontya’ (‘Computer’) replaces the previous album’s fear of technology with something like lust, coming over like a 21st-century ‘Je T’Aime… moi non plus’ and ‘Daromres y'n Howl’ (‘Traffic In The Sun’) ropes SFA’s Gruff Rhys in for a bluesily loping, dissected driving song. A treat, no matter where you’re from. Rob Mesure

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