9Bach @ The Slaughtered Lamb
Clerkenwell Slaughtered Lamb. 07dec09.
“When I say mostly sung in Welsh, I mean only sung in Welsh” says Lisa Jen Brown as an early disclaimer; “[besides] they’re all Welsh folk songs, they’ll all be about death.” She eventually contradicts herself on this point, prefacing each song with a plot synopsis in lieu of subtitles.
As it turns out, while Yr Eneth Gadd Ei Gwrthod follows a morbid theme, other numbers, such as Pontypridd, are about farmers up on their luck, or people gossiping about the town drunk.
All traditional songs they might be, but 9Bach’s method is to give them a bit of a contemporary makeover. However, crucially, they don’t oversell their twist, nor do they shoehorn in too much modernity, and as such the spirit of the original songs remains. Their one concession to a big showpiece comes during Lisa Lân when it all goes a bit Mariachi before curtailing its excesses for a series of receding false finales.
In the most part though, their arrangements are economical; managing to be uncomplicated yet seem opulent through a display of well-practised craftsmanship, particularly by Esyllt Glyn Jones on harp. While they might not blow any amps, they do manage to blow a lamp, the tall upright at the back of the stage flickering and fizzing into darkness mid-set.
Bwthyn Fy Nain announces its arrival with Martin Hoyland’s Gilmour-like unhurried guitar flex and a great many of their pieces have the same attitude to deceleration and allowing tunes to breathe as post-Barrett Floyd (without the verbosity), Nina Nastasia or Low in their Things We Lost In The Fire / Trust era. If anything, the tempo dictated by Ali Byworth’s drumming and Dan Swain’s bass is indicative of a trip-hop influence, rather than traditionalist dirge.
They appear sensitive to being seen as desolate though, to the point where they apologise profusely when the slowest of their pieces is imminent, promising that more upbeat music will follow. They needn’t worry, of course, as their stall was set out quite clearly from set opener Cweiriwch Fy Ngwely. This piece, whilst hymnal, also has a nursery rhyme twinkle in its eye; Brown’s Liz Fraser-like crystalline vocal working itself into the instrumentation like spring waters glimmering at the heart of a thriving vale.
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