22nd March | Louisiana
If you happened to be at The Louisiana when Gwenno was there, I’m sure you’ll agree that the night was spellbinding. After the success of her newly-released second album and selling out one of Bristol’s most iconic venues, Gwenno’s fanbase is going from strength to strength. All of the songs she performed were written in Cornish and Welsh, with Gwenno urging the crowd to “learn a minority language”. It was an empowering and touching experience.
Support came from DJ Machynlleth Sound Machine, performing light-hearted electronic sounds and incorporating excerpts from Huw Edwards’ news reports; bet you’ve never seen a DJ do that before. With projections of vintage footage, Fatima Yamaha-esque sounds and weaving bits and pieces of narration, it was a mammoth sensory overload. Machynlleth Sound Machine is a fine example of the booming Welsh music scene.
Gwenno coolly walked on stage with her band, taking centre stage alongside her keyboard. Her presence silenced the room; a heavenly sound emerged from the synths before springing into the first tune. Nothing was said from Gwenno until the end of the second song, simply “diolch,” (“thank you” in Welsh). Her mysterious and enchanting demeanour held us all captivated.
We heard her gracefully glide from songs on her first album to the freshly-released single, ‘Tir Ha Mor’, a song inspired by Cornish landscape artist Peter Lanyon. It was a shoegaze beast with flourishing echo and reverb heightened by Gwenno’s silvery Björk-like voice. It concluded with a jangly outro, followed by some narrative in which she spoke of “a city where everyone is welcome.” Gwenno’s thought-provoking anecdotes were hard to resist and left a lasting impression.
Then came ‘Herdhya’, Cornish for ‘pushing’, a mesmerising Morse-code-sounding riff with uplifting tribal drumming. It was followed by ‘Golau Arall’, a tune inspired by the famous Welsh hymn ‘Ar Hyd Y Nôs’. Her interest in heritage, language and culture is evident through her rich references and research.
She drew a chuckle from the crowd with, “So I’ve written album in Cornish. I bet no-one has ever written a song in Cornish about technology. This is a love song about my iPhone.” ‘Jynn-amontya’ is a layered psych-pop number which could easily pass as a Slowdive bootleg. Gwenno’s graceful stage presence is ethereal, her hand placed on her chest during this song depicting a true romance between her love for technology.
Incorporating spoken word in between the songs, it was linear and polished. Gwenno offered top-quality tunes, poetry and anecdotal musings throughout, which were all wonderfully inspiring. The entire night was captivating, especially awe-inspiring for me as a Welsh speaker. Gwenno’s main mantra for the evening was to urge anyone to learn a minority language. Her latest record ‘Le Kov’ has been released on Heavenly Records and is out now. Learn some Cornish and you’ll get even more out of the listening experience.
“This is our last song and it involves some audience participation. This song is about cheese.” ‘Eus Keus?’ is a high-energy protest tune which had the crowd chanting in Cornish – definitely a first for many. Swirling synths and mesmeric riffs reverberated throughout the room. Who knew a song about cheese could be so insane?