Release Date: May 13, 2016
Record label: Real World
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, International
For those of us whose Welsh is a trifle rusty, Anian refers to themes of nature, morality and the order of creation. 9Bach certainly know how to seep into your bones. Their previous album Tincian revolutionised new Welsh language music and won Best Album at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for its troubles. The follow-up is equally as dark with a dystopian edge that suggests we’re all doomed.
Largely recorded live at Real World studios, Welsh-language band 9Bach’s third album takes simple elements – Lisa Jên’s ethereal vocals, piano, bass and percussion, harp and hammer dulcimer – and weaves complex patterns. Opening track Llyn Du sets the pace with an organic, trip-hoppy feel, an atmosphere that lingers through the title track and Yr Olaf, before Ifan – weirdly, a musing on the true story of a boy raised by a pack of wild dogs in Moscow – alters the mood with vocal over solo piano and heavier, weirder interludes. Standout tracks are Si Hwi Hwi, a sort of lullaby with lovely voice harmonies sung by a slave mother to her young son, the eastern-influenced Cyfaddefa and the a cappella Heno, with its minor-to-major shifts.
9Bach sing in Welsh, and so they’re often thought of – pretty much by default – as being a band which plays Welsh folk. All music in ancient or indigenous languages is folk music, right? But in contrast to something like their Welsh language peer The Gentle Good, 9Bach have always slightly eschewed this description, without ever properly shaking it off. Sure, they have a harp.
The Welsh-language band return with a set dominated by the exquisite vocals of Lisa Jên, who also adds piano and wrote many of the lyrics and melodies. At times, it sounds like a solo album. Ifan, a gently pained song of parting, starts as a piano-backed solo and adds a wash of harp and other instruments, while Heno is constructed around layers of vocal tracks – a technique repeated on the traditional Sri Hwi Hwi, with the effective addition of bass and percussion.