Sunday, 4 October 2015
Oliver: Anhrefn - Rhedeg I Paris (29 December 1991)
"Of course most people in England, Scotland and Ireland think that Welsh music means Harry Secombe, which is bad news indeed." John Peel sampled on Bandit Country by Skep.
When I started listening to Peel in the late 90s, Welsh music to me meant three bands: Melys, who I was indifferent to. I think because they ALWAYS seemed to be in session for him; Super Furry Animals, who I had a distant respect for. Distant because I never seemed to like two SFA tracks in a row, but those I did like, I fell for hard. And Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, who I adored. Their 1996 album, Barafundle is, for my money, the closest any band has got to producing a contemporary update on Pink Floyd's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
Whether intentional or not, all three bands put into my mind an image of Welsh music as, essentially, "soft" and I don't mean that as a put-down. The Welsh as good singers is as strong a cliche as the Cornish being straw-sucking farmers. (What do you mean we are?!). But, nevertheless, their songs, even when they were rocking out, were delivered in flawless Welsh tenor voices that transported the listener to a pub fireside. In their different ways, their tracks evoked a strong sense of place. From Melys's internal ruminations, Super Furry Animals's projections into space or Gorky's sense of the sea, the overall picture that built up in my mind was a hybrid of quiet rurality mixed with vast senses of imagination. To define under a label, I'd go for indie-folk-space rock-psychedelia.
At least that was if you talk about the late 90s....
In the 80s and early 90s, Peel played a number of tracks and sessions by Bangor-based, Anhrefn. Unlike the later bands, any pastoral, bucolic sentiment expressed in their Welsh language only songs was buried under a punk rock sonic assault. You may not be able to understand a word of what's being sung, but you know exactly where you are (in a soulless city with a spirit that won't be crushed, no matter what is prescribed).
Anhrefn were remarkably belligerent about their language stance and that's probably for the best, because when they did record in English, they got it wrong: teaming up with annoying Scouse actress, Margi Clarke to record a cover of Anything Goes, for instance. Peel seems to have resisted that, as would I. This was my first listen to Anhrefn and if the John Peel wiki's accurate it would have been my last listen to them for nine years had I been taping the show at the time, but it's how they wanted to be heard: defiant, rocking and Welsh. Another link in the daisy chain of Welsh bands that got support from Peel when no one else was listening, even those who could have sung along with every word.
Anhrefn defend their brand of free speech.
Videos courtesy of eastside1977rucker and Rhys Mwyn.