Songs about sewage and space travel? It’s prog-folk band Hen Ogledd

Richard Dawson’s ‘wonky’ pop quartet are influenced by Billie Eilish, cats and 12th-century composer Hildegard von Bingen

It is about halfway through our video chat that Trouble turns up. While Hen Ogledd officially comprise Dawn Bothwell, Rhodri Davies, Richard Dawson and Sally Pilkington, today it also includes the latter couple’s excellently named cat. Trouble, “with a capital T”, as the wildly catchy chorus of their recent single goes, is as playfully unwieldy as the group. Although we are here to chat about new album Free Humans – a joyous constellation of “wonky” pop, free improvisation and sci-fi musing – it’s hard to stay focused. “Sorry,” says Dawson at one point, “I’m a bit distracted by the cat arsehole in my face!”

Dawson formed Hen Ogledd with Davies as a cathartically noisy improvisation duo in 2012, around the time that his own solo work was starting to reach a rapidly growing audience, leading to a string of acclaimed albums including last year’s opus, 2020. Meanwhile, Hen Ogledd expanded to include Bothwell for 2016’s Bronze, before Pilkington cemented the current lineup with 2018’s Mogic, their first on Domino Records.

The group have managed to balance a freeform approach to music-making with an increasing range of pop melodies and song structures, but make it clear that their vision of the genre is “multifarious”. “There is a definite level of wonkiness,” says Pilkington, “and fun is a big factor in the kind of pop that I like to make.” Influences on the album range from Abba and Billie Eilish to 12th-century composer Hildegard von Bingen, while the lyrics keep pace with such weirdness. As Bothwell jokes: “We decided to pick the most popular themes, typical stuff like sewers and the surfaces of other planets.” Something about the spirit and shared connection of the band give the whirling parts a gloriously odd cohesion.

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Documentary: “In Search of English Folk Song”

Famed filmmaker Ken Russell tours the countryside in search of the roots of the English folk song in this eye-opening documentary. His travels reveal the history of the form, its remnants in modern music and the ways it evolved as it was carried to Ireland and the New World. Performances and interviews with Donovan, Fairport Convention, June Tabor and other artists help illustrate the changing face of English folk music through the centuries.

Laura Marling performs “Wild Fire” live at the Royal Albert Hal

Mercury Prize-nominated artist Laura Marling teams up with pioneering strings-based collective the 12 Ensemble for a retrospective journey through her back catalogue, as well as showcasing tracks from her 2020 album, Song for Our Daughter. Featuring brand-new string arrangements by Rob Moose. 

In her first Prom as a headliner, Laura will perform an acoustic set accompanied by brand new string arrangements from the unconducted 12 Ensemble. Join Suzy Klein for what promises to be an unmissable evening!

Watch entire show at BBC Proms

Fairport’s “Farewell, Farewell”

Farewell, Farewell
Written by Richard Thompson

Farewell, farewell to you who’d hear
You lonely travelers all
The cold north wind will blow again
The winding road does call

And will you never return to see
Your bruised and beaten sons
Oh I would, I would if welcome I were
For they loathe me every one

And will you never cut the cloth
Or drink the light to be
And can you never swear a year
To anyone but we

No I will never cut the cloth
Or drink the light to be
But I’ll swear a year to one who lies
Asleep along side of me

Farewell, farewell to you who would hear
You lonely travelers all
The cold north wind will blow again
The winding road does call