By Phil Scarisbrick
Returning with another record in her parentally-native languages, Gwenno focuses on the personal as well as the collective on her beautiful third solo album
When an artist is creating music not in the English language, it is very easy for that to define their work and make it the focus of what they’re creating. Gwenno’s debut solo album, Y Dydd Olaf, saw her writing in her native Cymraeg (Welsh), while her sophomore release, Le Kov, was composed entirely in Kernow (Cornish). In both cases, this linguistic departure from the status quo was the focal point of much of the discourse surrounding their respective releases. On one hand, this is a disservice to the wonderful music that made up both releases, but, on the other, it underlined the importance of Gwenno’s use of these languages. Now returning with her third solo record, Tresor, she once again utilises these languages, and shines a light on not only Kernow and Cymraeg, but also Cornwall and Wales themselves.
Within a few bars of album opener, An Stevel Nowydh, the sound palette is quintessentially Gwenno. Her trademark blend of psychedelic electronica and dream pop give her music a unique sound. Once again collaborating with husband and producer, Rhys Edwards, you get the sense that their lockdown confinement was channeled into creating this beautiful record.
There is a lyrically diverse blend of the universal and the personal, with tracks such as Tonnow and Anima focus on experiences of womanhood and the confluence of social expectations and personal ideals. Elsewhere, much a collaborative effort. Though N.Y.C.A.W., an acronym meaning ‘Nid yw Cymru ar Werth’, which translates into English as ‘Wales is Not for Sale’, is more about the collective. The sole Welsh-sung track feels like it has more bite and vitriol than other songs on the album, as Gwenno sings ‘Penderfyniadau pwyllgorau pwyllog / Sy’n atgyfnerthu goruchafiaeth ffiadd y farchnad / Sy’n rhydd i wneud be’ a fynno’ which translates to ‘The decisions made by cautious committees reinforces the dominance of the vulgar market which is free to do what it wants.’ A biting line seemingly taking aim at the government appeasement of corporations taking priority over protecting its people.
The record’s title track translates into English as ‘Treasure’, and that is an apt way to describe the art that Gwenno and her collaborators make. The accompanying visuals not only provide more colour to the music, but also display a keen eye for understanding and capturing the subjects that you’re covering. Whether that is a lyric, a riff, or a camera shot, everything feels painstakingly considered. So while it is right that the languages Gwenno writes in remain in focus so as to amplify the cultures she is singing about, don’t let that distract you from what is a fully rounded, beautiful record.
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