AfterDark’s Dean Hodge gives his first review of this year’s Horizons/Gorwelion 2016 artists (announced on Feb 29).
When casting my eyes and ears over the new Horizons/Gorwelion 2016 line-up, for some unusual reason the film Forrest Gump seemed to immediately enter into my mind. More specifically, it was the famous line which Tom Hanks says at the beginning of the film – “Life is like a box of chocolates, because you never know what you’re going to get.”
The peculiar reference to that line is slightly justified here because it goes some way to summing up what has to be the most diverse line-up of twelve acts picked by the Horizons/Gorwelion scheme yet. From hip-hop to post-hardcore, from indie to electronica, from folk to pop – there is certainly something here to appeal to everyone’s aural taste.
But one thing is guaranteed – you are bound to stumble across some true musical gems that hopefully will have only just entered your life (and your playlist). If they haven’t yet, they are bound to make their presence felt over the course of the year ahead.
Once again, Horizons will be delivering on its ethos of promoting new music in Wales and shining a light on these twelve artists over the course of 2016 – through extensive radio airplay, live shows, festival slots, and an exclusive recording session at BBC Maida Vale.
BBC Radio 1 presenter – and one of the Horizons panel – Huw Stephens summed up the mission statement of Horizons in his previous interview with AfterDark. “There is so much talent in Wales but sometimes it’s hard to find it, and people might not know about new bands or where to start looking. You need to have a ‘filter’ for all the music out there and Horizons is a great music filter.”
To get you acquainted with the new wave of Welsh artists providing the ultimate ‘alternative’ soundtrack to the year ahead, AfterDark’s Dean Hodge provides his own take on the chosen 12 – and there is certainly a mixed bag of musical treats to indulge in here. Additionally, you can find out more about Horizons here.
Who are they?: A nine-person unit from Cardiff who together form a melting pot of soul, hip-hop, funk and practically any genre that will add more flavour to their smouldering sonic stew. Tight harmonies and dense grooves in plentiful stock.
Dean’s choice of first listen: They Don’t Know (ft. Helena-May) – Four minutes of white-hot, pedal-to-the-floor doo-wop funk layered with shimmering beats, brash horns, and smouldering guitar licks.
Who are they?: A psych-folk quintet from Denbigh, whose roaming folk melodies combine with mystical Welsh-language vocals to create the ultimate music to daydream to.
Dean’s choice of first listen: Y Môr – When the band manage to make their intoxicating blend of folk-cross-pop-cross-psychedelia work, it really works and none more so than here. The track’s brooding central melodic hook is sprinkled with disco-tinted guitars and beats to blissful effect.
Who are they?: Three-piece cosmos-rock band from Rhosgadfan, Gwynedd that musically seem to exist in their own parallel universe between the 60’s and the 70’s. Their kaleidoscopic melodies and mystical vocals are the band’s invitation to the listener to join them.
Dean’s choice of first listen: Foresteering – Feet-shuffling 60’s dusted riffs and hypnosis-inducing harmonies to match.
Who are they?: Only on an initiative like Horizons would you be able to move from the garage-psych of CaStLeS to the more playful indie-pop of singer-songwriter Connah Evans from Anglesey. Straight-forward pop music that wears its heart on its sleeve.
Dean’s choice of first listen: Wait For Me – A track that is unabashed and unashamed in its general upbeat tempo.
Who are they?: Bilingual folk singer-songwriter from New Quay (currently based in Cardiff) who crafts inescapably upbeat folk melodies that wrap like a velvet glove around her beguiling vocal. The sole female artist in this year’s line-up and simultaneously the first time an ukelele player has played a starring role.
Dean’s choice of first listen: I’ll Wait/Aros – Stark and haunting, the tracks retains an uplifting flourish thanks to the presence of Danielle’s vocal. Both the English and Welsh version are namechecked here whatever your linguistic preference.
FLEUR DE LYS
Who are they?: A Welsh-language indie-rock quartet from Anglesey. While I can barely comprehend the lyrics sung in Welsh, the high-energy guitars and head-nodding harmonies confidently speak for themselves just as much as the lyrics (probably) do.
Dean’s choice of first listen: Bywyd Braf – It’s this track which draws my first press of the play button. My first impression is that it sounds like an obscure Dandy Warhols B-side covered by and distilled through a Welsh twang.
Who are they?: In a short space of time, we have moved from hardcore alt-rock to indie to folk, and now onto hip-hop. Up to now, Goldie’ Lookin Chain have probably been the only flag-bearers of the Welsh rap scene. This Cardiff-based artist could be the new face (and voice) of Welsh underground hip-hop.
Dean’s choice of first listen: Cliché – For debutantes to the Cardiff-based singer, there is a busy catalogue of tracks to choose from. My own pick of first play is Cliché – which shows off the wordsmith’s soulful timbre.
Who are they?: Aberystwyth electronica duo with a knack for sampling virtually anything they can rummage from their seemingly expansive record collection, and welding them together into brooding sonic odysseys.
Dean’s choice of first listen: ‘Lost In Sound’ Roughion remix (originally by Delyth McLean) – There are plenty of originals in the band’s canon but it’s their take on former Horizons alumni Delyth McLean‘s tender ballad that most draws my curiosity. The band take the track into another dimension without sacrificing too much of the haunting emotion of the original.
Who are they?: Right at the heavier end of the Horizons musical spectrum this year, the post-hardcore trio from Newport pack jack-hammer riffs that are unrelenting and uncompromising.
Dean’s choice of first listen: Teeth – For my own introduction to the band I randomly go for this. The track descends from a whisper to a barrage of sky-scraping riffs and the ultimate tutorial in tonsil-shredding over the course of four and a half minutes.
Who are they?: Four-piece indie rock band from Cardiff who take simple anecdotes of rough morning-afters, wild night-befores and wilder women, and transform them into buoyant two to three-minute rock anthems.
Dean’s choice of first listen: So Low You Forgot How To Lose – The band need just two minutes to sucker-punch the ear cavities with their brand of noisy 00’s post-Britpop indie.
WE'RE NO HEROES
Who are they?: Indie-disco Cardiff trio with riffs that are the aural equivalent of cans of Red Bull and come with directions straight to the indie-dancefloor.
Dean’s choice of first listen: Distort The Air – Neon-tinted hooks, slinky bass riffs and falsetto-tone guitars aplenty.
Who are they?: Every self-appointed music critic’s favourite bandVelvet Underground seem to be the go-to act for any musical comparison. But a band that one could get away with applying such a tag to is this indie-dream-pop band from Carmarthen. Throw in the jangly guitars of bands like Ride and Cocteau Twins, and what you get is a sound that offers a sampling of pure escapism bottled into one sonic vial.
Dean’s choice of first listen: Dwi Ar Dan – Shoegaze-tinged indie-rock at it hazy best.
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