Saturday 31 March 2012

Hen Wlad Y Lladd-Dai

Geraint Jarman a'r Cynganeddwyr's 1979 LP Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Old Land of My Fathers) is widely considered one of the milestones in the development of contemporary Welsh language rock music. In 1990, the Ankst label decided to pay tribute to the record by commissioning several Welsh acts of the day to reinterpret the songs for a similarly titled tribute album. What we have here is not that album...

Rival record label Central Slate saw the proposed line-up for the tribute album and despite the presence of the excellent likes of Datblygu and Llwybr Llaethog, deemed the selection to be too safe and predictable. Spurred on by a suggestion from Geraint Jarman himself, the label decided to release their own version of the album and sought out eleven far more underground groups to interpret the songs. None of the acts were widely known at the time and in fact only Rheinallt H. Rowlands went on to greater things afterwards (this being his first ever appearance), but the versions on Hen Wlad Y Lladd-Dai (Old Land of Cemeteries) proved to be far wider ranging and far less reverent than those that appeared on the Ankst compilation. In an extra mischievous coup, Central Slate actually managed to release their version a few days before Ankst!

While the acts on the rival release largely stuck to Jarman's original rock/reggae approach, the acts here take far greater liberties with the songs, displaying the inherent ability of classic songs to allow for endless reinterpretation. From Rheinallt H. Rowlands' Scott Walker styled orchestrated epic to Symffonia Waunfawr's Portsmouth Symphonia tribute via Mudiad Moes' infectious synthpop and Y Crwban Glas' Madchester groove, the songs take on a new life and became utterly contemporary in 1990's music landscape. Czech born Welsh learner Emyr Jirásek clearly displays the regard in which The Velvet Underground were held back in his homeland and Ffilbi, Burjess, Maclein a Blynt bring a pummelling industrial groove to 'Steddfod yn y Ddinas. Here then is a lost classic that showcases the range of truly underground talent that existed at the very peak of the Welsh language music scene.

Various Artists - Hen Wlad Y Lladd-Dai (1990)

1 Rheinallt H Rowlands - Ethiopia Newydd
2 Siani Rhuban a'r Tri Gwr Drwg - Methu Dal y Pwysa'
3 Y Dyfrgwn - "Instant Pundits"
4 Topiau Tanc - Sgip ar Dân
5 Y Crwban Glas - O Lisa
6 Mudiad Moes - Merch Ty Cyngor
7 Mam ar Dân - Disgwyl y Barbariaid
8 Seraffin - Paradwys Ffwl
9 Emyr Jirásek a'r Lliwiau - Un Cam Ymlaen
10 Ffilbi, Burjess, Maclein a Blynt - 'Steddfod yn y Ddinas
11 Symffonia Waunfawr - Hew Wlad Fy Nhadau

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Wednesday 21 March 2012

Pink Ones - Psychedelic Night

A relatively short lived group, The Pink Ones existed for only two days - the 26th and 27th of October 1981. However, despite the fleeting transience of their physical presence, their influence remains devastatingly widespread to this day, for in their innocent enthusiasm for paying homage to their musical heroes, The Pink Ones inadvertently invented that wretched scourge of today's live music scene, the "tribute band" (for which they apologise).

When invited to perform at a "psychedelic night" in north Wales, local post-punkers The Pinecones came up with the idea of recreating one of The Pink Floyd's legendary happenings at the UFO club in 1966/67. After deciding on a set and slightly adjusting both their line-up and their name accordingly, the group convened at the venue (The Glanrafon pub in Bangor) the night before the scheduled gig for a rehearsal. Due to an ill-judged experiment in psychedelicising their playing with hallucogenic assistance, the rehearsal went far from successfully, with members of the group more concerned with avoiding the large green and purple monsters who dwelt upstairs at the Glanrafon in those days than in remembering the songs.

Happily, the following day, with the enhancement of a hi-tech rainbow strobe set-up and various other "far-out" projection devices, and without the "enhancement" of hallucogenics, The Pink Ones presented an almost masterful performance, taking the capacity audience on a journey through time and space and other such dimensions, through the centres of their minds and out the other side.
Fortunately, the whole performance (save the encore - a reprise of Arnold Layne) was preserved for posterity and in fact a copy was even passed off on certain trading circles as a genuine Floyd artefact!

The songs from the gig featured here hopefully stand as tribute to their late, great author whose absence from the music world in 1981 made the formation of The Pink Ones necessary. Let's hope that his more recent absence from the world in general will inspire something more useful then tribute bands.

Pink Ones - Glanrafon Pub, 27th October 1981

Alan Holmes - lead vocals, lead guitar
Maeyc Hewitt - drums
Scott Saunders - organ, backing vocals
Martin Parry - bass
Maria Hycz - backing vocals, percussion
Syd Barrett - songwriting, telepathic inspiration

1 Astronomy Dominé (Barrett)
2 Lucifer Sam (Barrett)
3 The Scarecrow (Barrett)
4 See Emily Play (Barrett)
5 The Gnome (Barrett)
6 Matilda Mother (Barrett)
7 Bike (Barrett)
8 Arnold Layne (Barrett)
9 Interstellar Overdrive (Barrett/Gilmour/Waters/Wright)

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Ghostriders - Plas Coch Summer 1981

Ghostriders formed initially as a duo of Dav Devalle (ex-Verbs) and Rob Parry (ex-) early in 1981, but by the summer had expanded into a full group with the addition of ex-Inadequates and Kellie's Heroes drummer Mark Thomas and ex-Third Spain bassist John Cratchley.

Despite emerging from an austere post-punk scene, Ghostriders were happy to display pre year-zero influences, stretching their songs out both temporally and spatially, at times bringing to mind the airy expansiveness of Spirit of 76 era Spirit. Their often epic originals were augmented by covers selected from the rock pantheon as if to reaffirm where they were coming from. Songs by Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Peggy Lee effortlessly became Ghostriders songs when subjected to Dav and Rob's chiming guitar interplay. These were the days before the Mojo/Jools Holland/Hall of Fame approved 'rock canon' and it was an unusual and indeed brave move... they even dared to play Route 66! The only other group in recent memory to take a similar approach had been The Patti Smith Group, who flew in the face of punk orthodoxy by celebrating rock mythology, juxtaposing their own songs with 'classics', in a cunning move to place themselves within that continuum.

Ghostriders continued making fine music for several more years, but never again did they strike the balance between primal rock energy and weightless ethereality so acutely as in the Summer of 1981. Here we have two concerts from that period, recorded three weeks apart:

Ghostriders - Plas Coch 21st July 1981

Dav Devalle - vocals, guitar
Rob Parry - guitar (1-5, 11, 12), bass (6-10) vocals
John Cratchley - bass (1-5, 11, 12), guitar (6-10), vocals
Mark Thomas - drums, vocals
Maeyc Hewitt - MC

1 Truth Is in Your Heart
2 Love Is Vital
3 Laugh with the Future
4 Like a Rolling Stone
5 Run Before We Could Walk
6 Running Risks
7 King Arthur
8 I Shall Be Released
9 Route 66
10 Waiting for the Storm
11 Fever
12 You Can't Do That

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Ghostriders - Plas Coch 11th August 1981

Dav Devalle - vocals, guitar
Rob Parry - guitar (1-6, 11), bass (7-10), vocals
John Cratchley - bass (1-6, 11), guitar (7-10), vocals
Mark Thomas - drums, vocals

1 Truth Is in Your Heart
2 Laugh with the Future
3 Love Is Vital
4 I Wonder
5 Run Before We Could Walk
6 This Is All There Is
7 Is This Time
8 King Arthur

9 Route 66
10 Waiting for the Storm
11 Like a Rolling Stone

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Warriors of the Grail - Psychedelic Night

From late 1980 through until early 1982, weekly music nights were held upstairs at Bangor's Glanrafon Pub every Friday. Generally these would feature a couple of local or visiting acts playing regular sets in a friendly pub style environment. Sometimes however, these nights were augmented by more elaborate theme nights where special one-off performances were presented, never to be repeated. One such event was the "Psychedelic Night" that took place on Tuesday, 27th October 1981.

The upstairs room at the Glan was adorned with psychedelic drapery and lit by a barrage of oil projectors and rainbow strobes. Saucers of sugar cubes and Smarties were placed on the tables, the air was heavy with incense and a far-out time was had by all, thanks to the mind expanding sounds of two ostentatiously attired combos - The Pink Ones and Warriors of the Grail. The names might not have been familiar to the regular clientele, but the groups themselves were - turning out to be the psychedelic alter egos of The Pinecones and Ghostriders respectively.

While The Pink Ones presented a faithful reproduction of 1960s British psychedelia with their Syd Barrett inspired set (see separate post), The Warriors of the Grail took inspiration from the U.S. psych scene of the period - Quicksilver Messenger Service, Grateful Dead, Vanilla Fudge and their ilk, guiding the audience on a cosmic journey into the furthest recesses of their minds. The first song ends abruptly in mid flight due to John Cratchley's pint falling from his amp and tripping the power!

Warriors of the Grail - Glanrafon, 27th October 1981

Dav Devalle - vocals, guitar
Rob Parry - guitar, vocals
John Cratchley - bass, vocals
Mark Thomas - drums, vocals
Tim Macartney - congas

1 Warriors of the Grail
2 Trust the Pulse
3 You Keep Me Hanging On

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Sunday 11 March 2012

Another Perfect Vegetable

A.P.V. were one of the most exciting but underexposed groups to emerge from the Bangor & Anglesey area in the mid to late 80s. They played a handful of chaotic gigs around the area in 1987 before relocating to Nottingham the following year. In the words of their own 1988 press release:

"APV are a two-piece band with an occasional bass player who possesses the playing abilities of Sid Vicious, say no more. His absence from this recording is wholly intentional. The recordings on this tape are nothing but a slight insight into the real potential of this band. We sound nothing like this live, sometimes we don't even play at all. The best is yet to come.

APV have played selected gigs in the N. Wales area, but have now moved to Nottingham and are currently charting their course for fame and fortune."

Sadly the fame and fortune never arrived and singer guitarist Anthony Heath was later seen fronting Glaring Green back in Bangor, while keyboardist Bethan White made a brief appearance as a dancer in a Cut Tunes video. As their press release suggests, these recordings don't quite capture the wild chaos of their live shows, but do display more than a hint of the lost wonder that was A.P.V., juxtaposing drum machine driven fuzz garage songs with found sound and cut ups to create a delicious and intoxicating lo-fi cocktail that sounds as great today as it did back in the 80s.

Here we have their 1987 release A.P.C. (Another Perfect Cassette), together with four tracks from a 1988 demo and the two tracks that appeared on the Burning Down the Chapels compilation (as previously posted).

A.P.V. - A.P.C. (1987)

Arnold Heath - bass, guitar, vocals, songwriting
Bethan Bingo - keyboards, vocals
Addy Marshall - bass, mumbling
Dirk Raddish - management, live mix
Croxley Script - airwave manipulation

1 Tell Me Something
2 Betrayal
3 Faithful
4 Blind Endeavour
5 Hello Pity
6 Golden Cockerill (Live)
7 Perfect Pair
8 This Crippled Frog Thing Parts 1 & 2

Phase 3 (1988)

Anthony Heath - guitar, vocals
Bethan - keyboards, vocals
Addy Marshall - bass

1 Unknown
2 Someone Else's Dream
3 Could You Care?
4 Unknown (Walk Away?)

Burning Down the Chapels (1988)

1 Tell Me Something
2 Could You Care?

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Saturday 10 March 2012

Burning Down the Chapels

Burning Down the Chapels was a compilation cassette released by Central Slate Records in 1988, containing 19 tracks by 10 of the more interesting Welsh groups of the day. All the songs included were specially donated by the bands and were all unreleased at the time, although Traddodiad Ofnus' Hunangofiant was later to appear on a 12" EP on the Constrictor label. One of the two Crisialau Plastic tracks also appeared on that group's sole release, a self released four track cassette EP, and The Lungs' contributions were included on their retrospective compilation, posted here last month. Apart from those, all these recordings remain otherwise unreleased.

Of particular interest are three exclusive dub remixes by the legendary Datblygu, two of the track Brechdanau Tywod, their already pretty rare contribution to an Artists for Animals benefit EP, and one of
Ynrwsgwrs from their just released debut LP Wyau.

The two Cut Tunes tracks provide a rare glimpse of the line-up that existed between the two vinyl releases from 1985 and 1989. This was a period when the group were playing live constantly and would regularly get out of the area to play London gigs. They are captured here at the peak of their powers.

Although the two Fflaps songs on the compilation appeared on the group's debut LP shortly afterwards, they are captured here in earlier versions, Chwildroi'n Gam in particular featuring a quite different arrangement.

Two groups, A.P.V. and Radio 23 make very rare recorded appearances here, although both would have been familiar to gig-goers in the Bangor area at the time. Radio 23 was the brainchild of Maeyc Hewitt of The Lungs, and their song It will be familiar as the very same song that appeared almost 20 years later on Nixon & Jarvis' 2007 LP Untilted under the title Reason.

A.P.V. or Another Perfect Vegetable in full, were a duo (or occasionally trio) from Anglesey who unleased a whirlwind of drum machine driven fuzz guitar and garage organ. Taking their name from a line in the Mekons' song Beetroot, they came across more like a thrilling hybrid of Husker Du and Suicide. A limited self released cassette entitled A.P.C. was released, containing 8 songs, including a different version of Tell Me Something.

Emily released a different version of this track on an EP on Creation Records and featured Gruff Rhys, later of Ffa Coffi Pawb and Super Furry Animals fame. Cardiff group Crumblowers also released a handful of fine records before guitarist Owen Powell left to join Catatonia.

Crisialau Plastic were a short lived trio from Aberystwyth, making one TV appearance performing Pryfaid on S4C and releasing an excellent cassette EP in 1988. Members went on to form Pop Negatif Wastad and Mescalero.

Various Artists - Burning Down the Chapels / Yr Ysbryd yn y Bag Cysgu

1 Datblygu - Ynrwsgwrs (Fersiwn) 2:58
2 The Lungs - The Day James Cagney Died 2:16
3 Crisialau Plastic - Pryfaid 3:40
4 Cut Tunes - Still a Problem 3:41
5 Fflaps - Chwildroi'n Gam 2:00
6 Radio 23 - It 3:37
7 A.P.V. - Could You Care? 2:31
8 The Lungs - Tra La La 6:03
9 Datblygu - Brechdanau Tywod #2 2:45
10 Traddodiad Ofnus - Hunangofiant 4:29
11 Cut Tunes - Godwar 4:19
12 A.P.V. - Tell Me Something 2:12
13 Crisialau Plastic - Sbu-Ü 2:24
14 Datblygu - Brechdanau Tywod #3 2:05
15 Fflaps - Pethau Piws 2:44
16 The Lungs - Stalagmiteman 2:02
17 Crumblowers - Cysgu 2:10
18 Radio 23 - A Remarkable Dance 4:07
19 Emily - Really Mad Dogs 3:30

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Friday 9 March 2012

Vaffan Coulo - Yn Goch

Existing from 1991 until 1998, Vaffan Coulo were at the forefront of a much needed rejuvenation of the Bangor music scene in the mid 90s.
Their ultra high energy live shows brought back a sense of excitement to the local scene and galvanised many other groups into working together to organise communal gigs, forming a genuine grass roots scene in the area.

Musically, they owed much to the original punk scene and particularly the Dead Kennedys, but imparted very much their own unique north Wales twist to the sound. Their live shows managed to be simultaneously tight and chaotic, with bass player Kerzy liable to end up naked by the end of the set.

The group were also dedicated supporters of Bangor City Football Club, and their song "The High Street Side Eat all the Pies", featured here, is without doubt the best football song ever written, featuring a wonderful stream of conciousness rant from Trifle that
appears absolutely un-singable when seen written down - see insert below! The fact that Trifle effortlessly manages the task is testament to the man's undoubted genius. The song was actually played at Bangor City's Farrar Road ground a couple of times at matches!

The group recorded a 7" EP and a side of a split 12" EP, as well as a couple of other cassettes (hopefully to be the subject of further posts here), but for my money, this four track cassette EP from 1994 captures the spirit of the group as well as anything.

Vaffan Coulo Yn Goch

Trifle - Vocals
Kerzy - Bass
Nick - Guitar
Mike - Drums

1 Cowboys Cymru
2 F.M.U.
3 The High Street Side Eat All the Pies
4 International Hitman

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