Horizons/Gorwelion 2016 – meet the new class of Welsh artists

Published on AfterDark (3 Mar 2016)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge gives his first review of this year’s Horizons/Gorwelion 2016 artists (announced on Feb 29).

Horizons 12 2016 (Copyright by BBC Wales and Horizons)

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.

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Horizons/Gorwelion 2015: The BBC Maida Vale sessions – Interview with Huw Stephens

Published on AfterDark (28 January 2016)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge spoke to BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio Cymru presenter Huw Stephens during the Horizons/Gorwelion 2015 sessions at BBC Maida Vale.

Huw Stephens (Copyright BBC Radio Cymru)

Last month saw the new wave of acts from the Horizons/Gorwelion scheme descend on the iconic BBC Maida Vale studios over the course of two days. There to preside over these sessions was BBC Radio 1/BBC Radio Cymru/C2 presenter – and new music connoisseur – Huw Stephens. As a member of the Horizons panel for the previous two years, Huw has lent his support for new original music to helping uncover the most exciting new talent in Wales. Here, Huw speaks to Dean Hodge about why a scheme such as Horizons is so important for Welsh music, his thoughts on the class of acts this year, and how he thinks the Welsh music scene can get bigger. Continue reading

Horizons/Gorwelion 2015: The BBC Maida Vale sessions

Published on AfterDark (13 January 2016)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge gains exclusive access to the Horizons 2015 sessions at BBC Maida Vale and talks to some of this year’s Horizons acts about the past year.

Horizons - Violet Skies w/band (Copyright by Horizons)

For two days over last December, the iconic BBC Maida Vale Studio in London transformed into a glowing musical furnace of Welsh talent as the acts from this year’s Horizons/Gorwelion scheme waltzed through the doors of the building.

For those not familiar with the Horizons scheme, here is a bite-size synopsis – Horizons is a scheme delivered each year in partnership between BBC Cymru Wales and Arts Council of Wales, with the sole intention of developing and nurturing independent music in Wales. As part of the scheme, twelve Welsh artists are picked each year by a panel of producers, and offered a number of opportunities throughout the year.

Just some of these opportunities include more exposure across Welsh radio, slots at a number of national/international festivals, career mentoring carried out through numerous music industry workshops, and at the end of the year a recording session at the illustrious BBC Maida Vale studio itself.

Some of the chosen artists to pass through the star-adorned walls of the building this year include Aled Rheon, Cut Ribbons, Dan Bettridge, Delyth McLean, Hannah Grace, HMS Morris, MELLT, Peasants King, Violet Skies and Yr Eira (with Y Reu absent due to other commitments).

What ensues is two days imbued with plenty of musical blood, sweat and tears. Two days of each artist pouring all their musical blood into three specially chosen tracks. Two days that bring plenty of sweat courtesy of the team of producers, filmmakers and project managers working hard to capture the sweet sounds being made. Two days that result in the occasional tear cried over what is an emotional moment for all involved after such an eventful year.

What emerges from these two days is a catalogue of tracks imbued with the heavenly melodies and the fiery soul that the music of Wales excels in creating. Gaining a front row seat to these two fruitful days in Maida Vale is AfterDark’s Dean Hodge, who talks to a few of the artists – Cut Ribbons, HMS Morris, Violet Skies and Aled Rheon as well as BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens – about the sessions and their year-long journey with Horizons. Note: the term ‘musical rollercoaster’ is used with a heavy degree of regularity here. Continue reading

Horizons 2015: AfterDark’s Dean Hodge Talks With Delyth McLean – ‘I already feel I’ve progressed so much in a short space of time’

DELYTH

Published on AfterDark (31 July 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge speaks to Delyth McLean, one of this year’s Horizons 2015 artists.

Readers of AfterDark may already be familiar with the name and the syrupy tones of Delyth McLean – an artist we have been openly lauding since we were first introduced to her at Swn Festival (in its DimSwn incarnation) last year. Remarkably, the same performance marked her first with her regular band (including sister Bethan McLean on backing vocal duties) – yet the impact they left on every spectator in the room was nothing short of instant.

It is testament to Delyth’s unbridled talent that her rise to wider recognition since has treaded a similarly rapid path. Following her ethereal debut single Lost in Sound released last year, her pounding new track River Bed was premiered on Huw Stephens’ show on BBC Radio 1.

Earlier this year, Delyth found herself one of the chosen acts for this year’s Horizons initiative – a scheme delivered by BBC Cymru Wales and Arts Council Wales to develop new, independent, contemporary music – and has seen her ascent step up a couple more gears, with a string of regular performances and festival sets under her belt since. AfterDark’s Dean Hodge recently spoke to Delyth about her journey with Horizons so far, her work with Young Promoters’ Network, sharing touring duties with her sister, and coping with the newfound press attention. Continue reading

Horizons 2015: AfterDark Talks With Dan Bettridge – ‘My parents’ record collection was the primary influence on my musical upbringing’

Published on AfterDark (23 June 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge speaks to Dan Bettridge, one of this year’s Horizons 2015 artists.

Dan Bettridge

The power of music partly lies in the pure, unabashed escapism it can offer and its ability to transport you to another time and place, regardless of where you are and when. It’s a philosophy that Welsh warbler Dan Bettridge fully embraces.

His husky, bourbon-soaked vocal and raw delivery instantly – the voice of an old soul placed upon young shoulders – sounds like more something born out of a smoky jazz or blues bar in late 60’s or early 70’s deep south America than like anything else today. You can almost feel the warm glow of sunset and the scent of smoke when you listen to his irresistible brand of Americana-infused Celtic soul, delivered with a voice which echoes the spirit of Van Morrison and Otis Redding but refines it within a Welsh lilt. Continue reading

Horizons 2015: AfterDark Talks With Cold Committee – ‘To be asked by Liam Gallagher and Miles Kane to play for them is just living the dream’

Published on AfterDark (23 June 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge speaks to James Cairns from Cold Committee, one of this year’s Horizons 2015 artists.

Cold Committee

As the old saying goes, ‘rock ‘n’ roll will never die’. While the rock genre is quite far from dead, it lately seems to be in a prolonged state of hibernation, lurking in the shadows as a wind of soulless, manufactured-pop blandness sweeps across the musical plain.

Where there is a gust of third-rate Ed Sheeran wannabes or mediocre Arctic Monkeys offshoots, there is always a wave of frustrated young men with guitars to counterbalance it. But while there are plenty new bands making a big noise, it doesn’t seem to be getting heard by the masses.  Rock itself is in a current state of deep freeze, slowly being preserved for when the time arises for it to reignite in the mist.

One of its torch bearers may have just arrived in the form of four North Walian lads who together form Cold Committee. Possessing a love for back-to-basics rock ‘n’ roll in its purest form along with a disdain with the bland scene around them, they have decided to do something about it by picking up instruments, learning a few chords and writing great tunes. Continue reading

Horizons 2015: AfterDark Talks With Hannah Grace – ‘Horizons has opened up new doors for me that not many people get to walk through’

Published on Cardiff AfterDark (6 May 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge speaks to Hannah Grace – one of this year’s nominated artists for Horizons 2015.

Hannah Grace (Copyright by Horizons)

Sometimes the best words that can be said are no words at all, and silence can be the loudest of all. It’s a philosophy of thinking which springs into mind when trying to sum up the music of the aptly named Hannah Grace. Because one listen of her benign, breathtaking voice, instantly takes the words out of your mouth.

It would be a waste of valuable energy to even try to articulate the power of the force that hits you right from the first few notes. You simply just have to feel every ounce of her volcanic vocal and the simmering soulful edge in her sound, exactly what a true ‘soul’ artist should do.

Only someone with as much emotive authenticity as Hannah Grace could write a song about a person calling off a relationship and somehow make you empathise with them as much as the one whose heart is broken. Yet somehow the 21-year-old Bridgend songbird manages to achieve exactly that on the title track of her debut EP Meant To Be Kind – a raw yet refined four-track cut which sounds remarkably accomplished for a debut yet still tinged with a raw, intense energy. Continue reading