Let’s catch up on an album that’s gotten some buzz online but will likely be missed by the masses. It’s Y Dydd Olaf, the first solo album of Gwenno Saunders (formerly of The Pipettes) and following an original release on Peski Records last year saw a re-release on Heavenly in July. Gwenno slots in neatly into the label’s previous catalogue, as Y Dydd Olaf is full of the same odd fusion of psych, Krautrock, pop and sheer Welshness that we’ve seen before from someone like H.Hawkline and Heavenly’s whole shtick of a modern outlook with an eye to the past. It’s one of those albums that’s difficult to describe since there aren’t any straightforward musical pinpoints, but it’s a decent album worth checking out for these halcyon days of Summer.
For me Y Dydd Olaf has that nice sense of setting that you like to see in an album where for example you can almost picture a Sun setting over some Welsh valleys as a Car glides through an A road on a track like album opener Chyldro (Revolution). It’s chock full of decent rhythmic tracks but what is bound to be the Marmite that polarizes people is that this is indeed a full Welsh language album, with no English to be found anywhere. For the positives it gives this release, that sense of setting and place is firmly established in a unique way that maybe the English language wouldn’t convey as well.
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This is a Welsh sound and you’ll know it not just by the musicianship but the language as well. Personally I’d only have an issue with it if the music wasn’t to my taste but thankfully it is, and with this sort of Modern Welsh music, the rhythm and music itself has always been the centrepiece with vocals taking a back seat, so it’s not as if the lack of any English vocals is as jarring as it would be otherwise.
It will certainly put some people off and I can completely understand them for doing that but it’s worth giving a few tracks a shot at least. After all, you can’t exactly criticise someone for embracing part of their heritage and doing something a bit unconventional, even if it doesn’t always pay off. All in all, Y Dydd Olaf is a release to be thankful for. Heavenly have given something that wouldn’t have been on many radars outside of Wales a proper chance to flourish and the result is a confident soundscape of an album that providing you aren’t bothered by something a language barrier is well embedded in the Neo-Psychedelia and Krautrock that may Welsh acts are enamoured with. It shares in the musical stylings of contemporaries like Cate Le Bon, H.Hawkline and Gruff Rhys and if you’re a fan of that scene then you’ll enjoy Gwenno’s first album as a solo artist. Just don’t try and use it as a Welsh Rosetta Stone or you’ll be disappointed.