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Review: 'GWENNO'
'Le Kov'   

-  Label: 'Heavenly Recordings'
-  Genre: 'Indie' -  Release Date: '2nd March 2018'

Our Rating:
I confess that I'm often guilty of reading too much into song lyrics. This creates the strong likelihood that I'm inclined to attach undue weight to words that were, if truth be known, scribbled hastily on the back of an envelope.

There's no risk of this happening with the sophomore album from Gwenno Saunders. I simply have no idea what she is singing about since this Welsh musician, and ex-lead singer of The Pipettes, has penned all ten tracks in Cornish.

As one of the few fluent speakers of one of Britain’s lesser known Brythonic, or British Celtic, languages she felt compelled to create a document of a living tradition and to explore her identity in the process. It follows from her debut album Y Dydd Olaf (The Last Day) which was sung in Welsh and Cornish.

Le Kov translates as 'the place of memory' and the title was partly inspired by Gwenno's research into the legends of sunken cities Cantre’r Gwaelod, Ker-Is, Langarrow and Lyonesse. She also notes that “this album is a combination of accepting the culture which your parents have valued and respecting the nuances that make us all different".

As this language has been around for at least 15 centuries there's plenty of scope for research and one aspect she was keen to explore was the role of women throughout Cornish history.

A wider political perspective can also be placed on the record by relating it to the vote for Brexit. Gwenno makes a direct link to this decision when she comments "many people are trying to push society back to a regressive idea of the middle ages that has never existed, and imposing that on everyone else”. Le Kov is, by way of contrast, “dhyn ni oll” (for us all).

She says her favourite track is Eus Keus? which poses the question 'Is There Cheese?' This derives from one of the oldest surviving Cornish phrases: “Is there cheese? Is there or isn’t there? If there’s cheese, bring cheese, and if there isn’t cheese, bring what there is!”

Not all the ideas come from ancient sources or colloquial expressions. The title of the opening song, Hi A Skoellyas Liv A Dhagrow (She Shed A Flood Of Tears) was stolen from Aphex Twin’s 2001 album Drukqs.

The first single, Tir Ha Mor (Land And Sea), is a tribute to Peter Lanyon, a St. Ives school painter who learned to fly a glider plane in order to “get a more complete knowledge of the landscape” where he lived, and who died after crashing his aircraft in August 1964.

The songs were created with husband and producer Rhys Edwards and evoke a synth-based psychedelic ambience mingling with piano and drums effects.

Gwenno's mellifluous vocals are sung, shrilled, spoken and whispered to create atmospheric electro-pop that falls somewhere between Goldfrapp and Broadcast.

The hypnotic beauty of it all proves that listening pleasure does not depend on what John Lennon snidily dismissed as "expert textperts" and that musical enjoyment is generated just as much by mood and texture.

  author: Martin Raybould

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