Twenty years ago the music press in their attempt to genre-fy and commodify any band from the principality employed the lazy epithet the ‘Taffia’. Today Yucatan are part of the new breed of Welsh musicians inspired by their identity and heritage.
Eight years from their eponymous debut, Snowdonia’s Yucatan release Uwch Gopa’r Mynydd (Above the Mountain Summit), the album a love-letter to their habitat, the expanse of the wildscapes and rough-hues of the mountains and the elements.
Similar in aesthetic to mountainous compatriots Super Furry Animals and contemporaries Sigur Ros, King Creosote and The Phantom Band, this band evince a spectral, hypnagogic ambience, emanating a tautological upbeat melancholy. The album has been streamed this week at the top of Snowdon, Wales’ highest peak, and 3500ft above sea level, a world first. Led by Dilwyn Llwyd, the four-piece have attracted the attention and patronage of The Charlatans’ vox-mop and DIY’d bleachy Dulux hairdo, Tim Burgess.
‘Ffin’ (Border) is a slow-burning number with emotive vocals and a crashing crescendo which on first listen it is hard to shake the (lazy and obvious) Super Furry Animals allusions, well, it’s in Welsh innit? However, this rarebit is uniquely Yucatan, building on source and crafting anew.
‘Cwm Llwm’ (Cwm Valley) has tinkling nursey-chimes and is a classic example of how mood music is put to images to enhance the ‘experience’ from a drowning vole to a wailing soul who’s lost the egg and spoon race. Dear BBC Sport Editors, I’m getting ‘Ennis-Hill in Bronze come-down’ vibes for 2016. The plodding piano reminds of U2’s ‘With or without you’ fortunately without Bono’s preachy earnestness.
‘Word Song’ is cacophonic, a smattering of distinctly phlegmatic Welsh tones, instruments and noise that wholly is uproarious and affecting. ‘Halen Daear a Swn Y Mor’ (Salty ground and the noise of the sea) has a horn section similar to the Welsh-born Julian Cope’s Teardrop Explodes alumnus, in the words of Cope himself ‘it’s all ethereal’
The onomatopoeic ‘Ochenaid’ (Sigh) finds Llwyd’s delivery exhaled to a backdrop of shimmering instrumentation, it is both weary and uplifting, bleakly bright with a strident finale.
‘Llyn Tawelwch’ (Lake Silence) is a celebratory rock-out to nature, triumph and wonderment a contrast to the suburban sprawl at play across the greenbelt.
The eponymous ‘Uwch Gopa’r Mynydd’ closes the suite in elegiac fashion and acts as a reminder to power-saps like Coldplay that piano-led soundscapes don’t necessarily have to be listened to with an umbrella, this is melancholy as a force of rejuvenation. With music this good lyrics are not necessary, the imagination is inspired by the wall of sound. This is an album created by and required to listened to via osmosis, a sensory gateway into the Snowdonia region and into an-other, nether-world. Gwrando ar uchel (Listen to loud)