Record Review: Osian Rhys “Autumn Shades Of Gold” 

Autumn Shades Of Gold is a remarkable debut by Welsh singer-songwriter Osian Rhys, a thing of grace, elegance and beauty.

Backwater Records – 13 December 2019

The release of the Autumn Shades Of Gold marks the recording debut of Welsh singer-songwriter Osian Rhys.  Produced by Richard Woodcraft, (Neil Young, Arctic Monkeys and Radiohead) it will be released across a variety of formats.

Blessed with a disarmingly irresistible voice, the music presented across the four tracks in many ways defies categorisation, suffice to say that Autumn Shades Of Gold is a thing of grace, elegance and beauty, bringing a welcome warm breath of folk-psych air to the rapidly falling winter temperatures.

The opening track, The Ballad of Mr Withers, is, in essence, a waltz, albeit a foreboding waltz like no other.  The opening gentle guitar notes entice the listener in and before long one is enveloped and snared by the soaring strings which herald the chorus to maximum ethereal effect.  Each stanza presents an almost photographic scene, a device echoed in the official video release, created on Super 8 by artist Clare Marie Bailey, which accompanies the song.  Whilst the chorus melody and arrangement are tenderness and sweetness personified, this belies the somewhat dark lyrics

‘Lovers embracing on bridges

Her jumper lies about the bruises on her arms’

The next track up, Tour Of Bedlam, presents almost as a modern-take on plainsong, celestial layers of vocals effortlessly weaving their way, for an all too brief two minutes and ten seconds, creating an alluring, hypnotic effect.  If there is such a thing as ‘diaphanous sounding music’, then this is surely it, although, once again there is an intriguing incongruence between the music and the lyrics, the somewhat bleak words painting  grim dystopic pictures, in a rather stark contrast to the sound

‘Come stroll through the slum

A tour of Bedlam

See how we live

Behind the pain and misery

There’s a crumbling country’

Track three, or first track on side B of the vinyl, is a re-recording of Osian’s debut single, ‘Long Time Gone’.  The opening harmonica notes, sharply Continue reading

Gruff Rhys: Pang! review – acoustic, pastoral, global … and as unpredictable as ever

Sung in Welsh, produced by South African artist Muzi, Rhys’s latest is a chamber folk-rock minor masterpiece

After last year’s expansive, magnificent Babelsberg, Gruff Rhys has pared things back, although not by much. Where Babelsburg went the full orchestra, Pang! confines itself to the chamber, its songs not draped in instrumentation, but coloured with brass and woodwind where necessary, to supplement the pastoral acoustic mood of the album. There is, though, another form of expansiveness: for all its grounding in very British folk-rock styles, Pang! is a global record – there’s an explicit influence from South Africa (it was produced by the South African electronica artist Muzi) with some lyrics sung in Zulu, and in some of the instrumental detailing – the jittering electronic bells of Ara Deg, the interplay of guitar and percussion on Bae Bae Bae.

Overshadowing all of this, though, is the fact that aside from the brief snatch of Zulu, Pang! is sung entirely in Welsh. In some ways that’s helpful: your love of Rhys’ lyrics depends, as ever, on your enjoyment of words that are allusive and opaque, rather than direct. The English translations suggest Rhys is again worrying away at the state of the world in his own idiosyncratic way – the title and the title track express complete doubt about, well, more or less everything; Eli Haul is preoccupied with the effects of the sun (“Remember to wear a cap and spectacles on your travels”; Niwl O Anwiredd translates as Fog of Lies, which is self-explanatory. Even the more lyrically intimate Ôl Bys/Nodau Clust (Fingerprint/Earmarks) is wreathed in distrust: “Holy is your word / Holier is your password.” But the lyrics being incomprehensible to those without the gift of Welsh allows the less linguistically gifted to focus instead on the melodies.

There’s a delicious circularity to Pang! and Bae Bae Bae, both springtime streams of songs that seem to speak to centuries of music (don’t come to this album expecting any electric guitar fireworks; it’s all acoustic and measured). Only on Ôl Bys/Nodau Clust is there any hint of insistence, and that comes from a juddering rhythm rather than fierceness in any other element – in fact, the harmonised chorus is almost churchy in its construction. And so Gruff Rhys offers another minor masterpiece, destined to be all but ignored by those not devoted to his cult. More’s the pity.

Source: Gruff Rhys: Pang! review – acoustic, pastoral, global … and as unpredictable as ever

Podcast: Go Wild, Open Country – Off Grid in Mid-Wales

Ian Marchant meets people who live off-grid in mid-Wales.

Guest presenter Ian Marchant meets people who live off-grid in his part of the world, near Presteigne in mid-Wales.

There’s Bob, who started his off-grid life on the hippy trail in the sixties, driving over-land to Afghanistan and bringing back the first Afghan coats to the London fashion scene. Now he lives in a wood, still making jewellery and living in his van. For him, there’s adventure in every aspect of his life, even the washing up, especially if you have to do it in ‘horizontal snow’.

Goffee-the-Clown has built himself an idyllic cottage, but somehow he can’t bring himself to move in. He prefers the simplicity of his pale blue retro caravan with its wood-burner and collection of spider-webs, idyllically situated on the bank of the River Usk.

There are the Hoopers, a family of four who run an efficient small-holding as carbon-lightly and self sufficiently as is possible. They did have a brief spell in a house, but despite the fascinations of the washing machine, they were delighted to be back living off-grid up a mountain.

And there’s Briar, who has just moved in to her new home, a yurt she has built herself, snugly insulated with duvets and brightly-coloured rugs and fabrics. Everything she needs is to hand, and there’s water from the spring nearby. Knowing she can rely on her own strength and skill to live anywhere makes her happy and gives her confidence. And the cost? This luxurious construction cost her roughly twenty quid to build.

Produced by Mary Ward-Lowery.

First broadcast on Thursday 27 October, 2016.

Source: BBC Radio 4 – Go Wild, Open Country – Off Grid in Mid-Wales

Netflix series End of the F***ing World has been filming in Swansea

End of the F***ing World

The Netflix Channel 4 adventure drama The End of the F***ing World is being filmed in Swansea.Filming on the second series of the show centred on the Rowberry Fashion store in Port Tennant on Tuesday with security and crews all on site from 7am until 5pm.Show star Jessica Barden, 26, who takes on the lead character of Alyssa, happily greeted onlookers as shooting took place.June Jones, who owns Rowberry, said she had to shut off the bridal section for the day for the filming.She said: “All the people going past were asking if they could be extras.

Source: Netflix series End of the F***ing World has been filming in Swansea – Wales Online