Published on AfterDark (06 Nov 2016) – CLICK HERE to view
Dean Hodge reviews the eponymous debut album by Cardiff R’n’B fusion band Baby Queens (released through Strangetown Records on 28 October 2016).
Tracklisting: Tired Of Love/Melodi/Had My Heart/Hear Me/You And I/By The River/It Feels Like/Forever/Spiritualize/Unite/Red Light/Samsara
Having followed them for a lengthy period of time and thrown around the lofty words ‘long-awaited album’ in much of my previous reviews, it comes as a massive relief to be able to finally review an actual album by Cardiff’s Baby Queens – the female five-piece who serve up a hypnotic and harmonious aural cocktail that is shaken and stirred with R’n’B-infused pop melodies and garage rock-imbued hooks.
The Welsh quintet can pose a two-edged sword to any music journalist or press figure. On one hand, you would need a list longer than your arm for the myriad of genres the band could justifiably fit into with petite ease. But it poses something of a quandary on how exactly to articulate or market their sound within one genre or within a single tagline. Additionally, it is just as much of a challenge in how to thread together the numerous stitches of the band’s sound into a cohesive whole, and capture the raw energy of their live sound onto record. This is perhaps an obvious factor as to the why the wait for a debut album has dragged on for what seems like an infinite amount of time. At least it has so in the eyes of many of their fans – or their ‘New-Jack Army’ if that could be considered a suitable royalty-inspired nickname for their fan club – who have been licking their lips over the prospect of a full-length album by the five-piece.
Not content with just putting out sub-standard recordings of the music that they have been pouring their heart and soul into writing while balancing day-to-day jobs, the band take a decidedly more meticulous approach. For them, the production should be just as important, and just as emotionally ambitious, as the songs themselves. Additionally, so much can happen within the realms of life and love in the space of a couple of years, that can only serve to enlighten and enrich the creative nous. Continue reading
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)
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
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.
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
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, 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 Sier – the 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
Dean Hodge speaks to Dion Hamer from CaStLeS (Cestyll) – one of this year’s Horizons/Gorwelion 2016 artists.
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
Dean Hodge reviews the new EP by Cardiff band Afro Cluster (released 11 April 2016).
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
Dean Hodge speaks to Alfie Cattell from Anelog – one of this year’s Horizons/Gorwelion 2016 artists.
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 Hodge – touching 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
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.
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
AfterDark’s Dean Hodge talks to one of the Horizons/Gorwelion 2015 artists Dan Bettridge about his Horizons year and recording at BBC Maida Vale.
The term ‘rollercoaster’ has been used a lot by some of the Horizons 2015 artists to describe their past year, but it perfectly epitomises the dozen months endured by Welsh soul singer Dan Bettridge. The high point of being picked by Horizons earlier last year was interspersed with a severe back injury sustained by Dan, which left him barely able to write and play music for a long period.
The Ogmore-by-Sea native has faced these obstacles with the same grit and gravitas that courses through the veins of his music. Having completed the road to recovery, the rising singer-songwriter is now firmly on the prosperous path to wider popularity. His powerful voice – a devastatingly heart-tugging weapon of bourbon-soaked beauty – is one that merges musical generations old and new. Melodies reminiscent of the Stax-era soul and R’n’B sound are infused with lyrics full of modern-day musings on love and loss – and distilled through Dan’s soulful rasp.
Half a year on from their previous interview, Dean Hodge speaks to Dan Bettridge about his up-and-down year, his plans for 2016, and performing at BBC Maida Vale – twice! Continue reading
AfterDark’s Dean Hodge talks to one of the Horizons/Gorwelion 2015 artists Hannah Grace about her Horizons year and recording at BBC Maida Vale.
The voice of Welsh chanteuse Hannah Grace is imbued with both a dreamy delicacy that matches her namesake, and a bruising power that can erupt seemingly from out of nowhere and floor you when you least expect it to. Her music is just as full of crafty contradiction. Melodies and lyrics that are derived from the deepest realms of the heart, are further embellished and enhanced by ambitious production that enable it to transcend any genre – folk, jazz, blues, any conceivable journalists’ label and any musical form yet to be given a label.
Take Meant To Be Kind which starts off as an acoustic ode to heartbreak from the viewpoint of the person doing the heart breaking, but soon elevates into a gospel-soul mantra of self-defiance. Then Walk Away (The City) – as much a lament on inner-city isolation as it is an escapist’s anthem.
When Dean Hodge last interviewed Hannah Grace last year, she has just earned a place on the Horizons/Gorwelion 2015 scheme – a nod which further cemented her as an artist to keep a close ear out for. Here, the Bridgend-based singer-songwriter speaks to Dean about how Horizons has helped her over the year since then, what people can expect from her new sound, details of her upcoming release, supporting Gabrielle Aplin this year, and her recent performance for Horizons at BBC Maida Vale. Continue reading