Tincian - 9 Bach

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There are a number of stereotypes about Welsh music – most based on reality. One is that Wales is a nation of great singers. And, while not everyone in Wales sings well, truth is the bar is set high enough that you can't have a career in vocal music in Wales (unlike some other places) without mastering the basics. Further to that, Wales is full of harps and choirs. All clichés, and nonetheless true.

That said, we come to a very different kind of Welsh musician in 9Bach – not the typecast Celtic group but one with a sound derived from a number of sources – call it British “art rock,”-- which the emphasis on the “art.” Think, in particular, the West Country group Portishead, and a combination of female vocals, bass, and percussion, atmospheric guitar and keyboards. Yet this is a band rooted in great vocals, the harp and other traditional elements – based in the most remote settlements of the mountains of Wales.

9Bach's home is the small, very Welsh quarrying community and musical crčche of Bethesda, (home of the Pesda Roc festival, and among others guitarist Steve Eaves, and his daughter and Liet festival laureate Lleuwen Steffan). 9Bach features Welsh-language lyrics, and a small town perspective.

Despite this, 9Bach came about through a remarkable series of co-incidences which apparently occurred in England. One was the chance meeting of lead vocalist (also actress) Lisa Jęn (Brown) with musical partner and husband, guitarist Martin Hoyland. The second was a chance meeting of one of the band members, driving cab, with Peter Gabriel.

9Bach started by recording traditional Welsh songs but with non-standard arrangements. (The group's bilingual name means “little granny” in Welsh.) The first, self-titled 2009 album featured well-known Welsh songs such as “Lisa Lân.”

On Tincian, the group's second disc, variety is on offer -- from the bare vocals of “Babi'r Eirlys” to the ethereal “Asteri Mou,” where the harp, guitar and keyboards interact playfully before making way for the vocal. Lisa Jęn is an excellent vocalist with a clear voice and focused artistic vision, and contributes most of the lyrics and tunes, while Hoyland is credited with the arrangements.

"Babi'r Eirlys" (excerpt)

"Asteri Mou" (excerpt)

Interesting settings abound, with a variety of percussion sounds adding to the complexity. Subject range from childbirth in "Lywyiau" (Colours) to the stolen Australian Aboriginal Children in “Plentyn.” The downbeat “Wedi Torri” (Broken) gives way to the wistful "Pa Le?" (Where), a traditional idea brought to life by the lovely harp of Esyllt Glyn Jones. While the musical setting is urban, modern, themes are rural. “Llwybrau” means paths. “Llwynog” is the fox.

"Plentyn" (excerpt)

"Pa Le?" (excerpt)

Tunes are complex, moods are evocative and rhythm offerings are challenging and varied. “Ffarwel” features the contribution of Côr Penrhyn (a Bethesda-based male voice choir) and inspiration from a collection of local traditional songs by Ieuan Wyn.

In depth of emotion and consistency of mood, this disc is like a mist high in the high heartland of Eryri. Lyrics are in Welsh, but an explanation in English is provided for each song on this finely-produced disc. - David Cox


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