Review: Sŵn Festival 2016 – “Providing musical memories for ten glorious years, and hopefully more to come”

Published on AfterDark (26 Oct 2016) – CLICK HERE to read article

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge reviews some of the acts from the 10th anniversary weekend of Sŵn Festival in Cardiff (Friday 21 – Sunday 23 October 2016).

Photo provided by BBC Cymru Wales (Photographer: Simon Ayre)

Photo provided by BBC Cymru Wales (Photographer: Simon Ayre)

The sight of instruments and amps being wheeled from numerous white vans into one of the various venues in Cardiff. A sea of pink and red balloons dotted around the city streets and inside said venues. People walking around with glitter etched across their face as if it an acceptable form of everyday attire. These are images that have become very much synonymous with the annual orchestrated cacophony of chaos that is Sŵn Festival.

Like a song that reminds you of an iconic scene from your favourite film as soon as you hear it, these images are a visual accompaniment to the many moments of musical magic that have come to define the Welsh festival. Artists have marked their breakthrough here. Friendships (and relationships) have been formed. The odd Jager-bomb has been consumed here and there.

They are moments that indeed now span an entire decade for those that have shared the journey of Sŵn right from the beginning – and four years (and counting) worth of musical memories for me. With local music venues fighting an uphill battle to remain relevant in the current streaming-dominated music industry, the support of these venues and the ability of city-based festivals like Sŵn to highlight the independent scene, is more vital now than ever before. So the Welsh festival marks its tenth birthday by providing more of the high-calibre new artists that have come to define the ethos of Sŵn. Continue reading

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Sŵn Festival 2016: AfterDark’s 10 must-see artists

Published on AfterDark (16 Oct 2016) – click here to access article

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge previews the 10th anniversary weekend of Sŵn Festival (Friday 21 – Sunday 23 October) and picks his 10 recommended artists.

10 Must See Artists Swn (Copyirght AfterDark)

Cardiff‘s own curtain-closer to the festival season Sŵn Festival returns once again to numerous venues around the Welsh capital for a whole weekend – showcasing the cream of upcoming artists that are sure to be the soundtrack of the years to come.

Like the one music-obsessive in your social group that continually claims bragging rights to knowing the best new artists before anyone else does, Sŵn prides itself on bringing future headliners and chart-hasslers directly into some of Cardiff’s petite venues. Artists like Temples, Alt-J, The Vaccines and Disclosure are just some of the acts to have graced the Welsh festival on the way to the ‘toppermost’.

Now in its 10th year, Sŵn shows no signs of going stale with its ear still finely attuned to the freshest sounds – and this year’s line up is sure to have something to please everyone whatever their aural tastes. AfterDark’s Dean Hodge handpicks his own ten artists to look out for this weekend. Continue reading

Review: DimSŵn 2016 – ‘A premature serving of Sŵn’s 10th birthday cake, with just as much rich sonic filling’

Published on AfterDark (14 April 2016) [click here to view]

Dean Hodge reviews some of the acts from this year’s DimSŵn Festival in Cardiff , 9 April. (Photography by Nick Evans)

Anelog (Copyright Nick Evans)

Anelog, The Moon Club (Photo: Nick Evans)

If its older sibling Sŵn is the headline act of the festival season, then the younger DimSŵn is the inaugural support whetting aural appetites for the soundtrack to our year ahead. With the tenth year of Sŵn approaching, DimSŵn was in some ways a premature nine-and-a-half old birthday celebration – a mere slice of the Sŵn birthday cake full of the rich sonic filling and rare flavours-of-the-month that this defiantly Welsh institution never fails to mix up.

As is often the case at Sŵn, it falls on the slim guitar-adorned shoulders of a singer-songwriter act to open proceedings. So DimSŵn 2016 gets under way in Undertone with Merthyr Tydfil chanteuse Bryony Sierthe first in a line of acts representing the Forte Project stage. She manages to inject a unique edge into the country and folk genre with a voice that sounds more Memphis than Merthyr, and melodies cut straight from the heart. Continue reading

Horizons/Gorwelion 2016: Dean Hodge Interviews CaStLeS – ‘Our live shows are an opportunity for us to do something exciting and inventive’

Dean Hodge speaks to Dion Hamer from CaStLeS (Cestyll) – one of this year’s Horizons/Gorwelion 2016 artists.

Castles 2 (Copyright Horizons)

Members: Dion Hamer, Cynyr Hamer, Calvin Thomas 

When listening to garage-psych trio CaStLeS (or Cestyll in Welsh), you only have to close your eyes and you can convince yourself that you’re back in the 60’s again. Their staunchly authentic sound is a kaleidoscopic blend of psych-infused surf-rock and West Coast influenced guitar-pop, filtered through a late 60’s lens.

The North Wales band have been meticulously honing their distinct style while managing to exist fairly underneath the radar for a while now. But while the ‘sound’ is one thing, are the ‘songs’ good enough? Recent singles like PartDepart and Foresteering are strong hints at a band who have belief in their craftsmanship, and are ready to emerge from the shadow.

Dean Hodge spoke to CaStLeS member Dion Hamer about the band being selected for the Horizons/Gorwelion 2016 scheme, their ambitions for the year ahead, and their two upcoming albums. Continue reading

Review: Afro Cluster ‘We Don Land’ EP – ‘The dawn of an exciting new addition to the Welsh sound’

Dean Hodge reviews the new EP by Cardiff band Afro Cluster (released 11 April 2016).

Vid Shoot Photo Afro Cluster (Copyright Afro Cluster)

Tracklisting: First Rites/Love Thing/Double Trouble/We Don Land/Access Denied

For their new release, Cardiff funk-revivalists Afro Cluster one of the Horizons/Gorwelion 2016 artists – have adopted a decidedly more-is-more approach, with their line-up expanding from eight to nine. The phase ‘too many cooks spoil the broth‘ frankly doesn’t apply within this musical kitchen though.

Rather, each individual in the band brings a different set of ingredients that simply accentuates the flavour of the sonic stew of soul, funk and hip-hop that the band serve up . Like a certain Premier League football team from Leicester, they seem to bring out the best in each other, and their approach to their craft is just as full of pace and attack.

We Don Land sees the nu-funk band once again play to their core strength – reviving the preserved back canon of 60’s/70’s funk and soul, while adding a modern sheen with lyrics that are in tune with the issues facing the world today – courtesy of frontman/wordsmith Skunkadelic. If the rest of the band are an engine, then his captivating wordplay is ultimately the steering wheel that gives a direction to their sucker-punch rhythms. Continue reading

Horizons/Gorwelion 2016: Dean Hodge Interviews Anelog – ‘We’re basically a big, dysfunctional family rather than a band’

Dean Hodge speaks to Alfie Cattell from Anelog – one of this year’s Horizons/Gorwelion 2016 artists.

Anelog 1 (Copyright Anelog)

Members: Danny Cattell (vocals/guitar), Sam Cattell (bass), Alfie Cattell (keyboards/synths), Sion Rogers (drums), Lois Rogers (vocals/synths)

North Wales psych-folk outfit ANELOG is essentially the collaboration between two families – both for whom music runs in their blood and harmonies exude from their soul. The Cattell brothers – Danny on vocals/guitar, Sam on bass and Alfie on keys/synths – make up one half, while Rogers siblings Lois (vocals/synths) and Sion (drums) complete the other.

The sound that arises from this family affair is one that is bathed in roaming folk melodies, psychedelia-tinged hooks and vocals that are almost telepathic in the harmonies they manage to create. When the band manage to make this intoxicating blend work, it really works.

Member Alfie Cattell took time out from one of their rehearsals last month to speak to Dean Hodgetouching on the band being chosen for the Horizons/Gorwelion 2016 scheme, their ambitious plans for their debut album, and the big radio break that marked the formation of the band. Continue reading

Horizons/Gorwelion 2016: Dean Hodge Interviews Ysgol Sul – “I like to think we don’t fit into one label but occupy a space between all of them“

Dean Hodge speaks to Iolo Jones, the singer/guitarist for Ysgol Sul – one of this year’s Horizons/Gorwelion artists.

Ysgol Sul (Copyright Ysgol Sul)

Members: Iolo Jones (vocals/guitar), Cian Owen (bass), Llew Davies (drums)

Llandeilo trio Ysgol Sul’s rapid rise – from Maes B ‘Battle of the Bands’ winners two years ago, to one of this year’s Horizons/Gorwelion artists –  is a sharp contrast to their decidedly laid-back, sombre ‘dream-indie’ sound.

The band’s name directly translates from Welsh as ‘Sunday school’. Their music could aptly soundtrack a hazy Sunday afternoon in the dim-lit sunshine retreating from the daily grind of work or from one pint too many the night before. Behind the deceivingly easy-going façade of their music though is a darkly psychedelic edge, lent further mystery by the Welsh-language vocals.

Throw in the jangly guitars of bands like Ride and Cocteau Twins plus the edgy power-pop of The Pixies – and what you get is a sound that offers a sampling of pure escapism bottled into one sonic vial. To find out more about the band, Dean Hodge spoke to singer/guitarist Iolo Jones. Continue reading