It may seem something of an anachronism that someone should name their album after an obscure novel that would require the assistance of Sherlock Homes just to locate a copy in its original Welsh language and probable divine intervention to find an English translation. Welsh, however, is the way that Gwenno has gone with her album “Y Dydd Olaf” (The Last Day) and that choice in no way detracts from its appeal.
Given that Gwenno was once of The Pipettes it is no surprise that the ten songs extracted from the ether of her social conscience have been constructed to appeal to the ears. Her voice, always an endearing feature of her solo work, is sugar coated devotional in style and seems to encircle your thought processes to the point of inevitable distraction. Take the fragmented ambient introduction to “Sisial Y Môr” (“Whispering Sea”), for example, and wonder at the seamless way that her song changes into girl in Nico mode electro pop before metamorphosing into the soundtrack to an eighties science fiction film as if the plan had always been to confound logical analysis.
As if to prove that high concept is in no way incompatible with melody, “Golau Arall” is so entrancing that it would deserve airplay on even the most commercial radio station while “Stwff” is so cutesy and fluffy, at least on the surface, that it would curry favour with even J-Pop fans. Beneath the wholesome ear friendliness however, it is clear that being able to disguise commercial song writing ability under a veil of politically motivated art is something of a Gwenno trademark.
Back to the serious stuff though and I suppose that the question that this album asks and answers is “Should music make you think?” The presentation is far from experimental yet, all things considered, “Y Dydd Olaf“ hardly seems mainstream either with Gwenno, to her credit, weaving enigma and emotions into the synthetic fabric that holds her music together in a manner that is never less than musically convincing and more often than not quite affecting.
Perhaps the greatest compliment that I can give her album is that it made me want to track down and read the book that inspired it. Question answered, I think.
The album is also available on vinyl from Peski.