A 2012 memory: sliding some excellently griddled Swiss cheese onto my plate before being handed a slew of free records for completing a pretty easy card collecting game then thinking “yeah, these Peski people are possibly the greatest on earth.” That was Swn festival; a few months later saw the top floor art gallery of an old antiques market turned into a throbbing live music space via wall projections and a massive stack of Red Stripe. Another fine year for Peski Records then, the Welsh label that mixes scattershot genre hopping (past releases include Cate Le Bon, Plyci and the recent(ish), superb R. Seiliog EP) with a generously cavalier approach to fun and free stuff (at the time of writing their Xmas-mix-plus-other-treats download is still available for zero pence here). These two are only most recent output, and they’re like diamonds in a haystack.
Y Pencadlys is the vehicle of Haydon Hughes, one third of the more sedate and sophisticated electro of Land Of Bingo, and a lot of the queasy thrills of ‘Merched Mewn Ecstasi…’ come from Hughes’s new persona as aberrant sex front man. It’s there on ‘Beth Oedd Yn Bod Gyda Moch?’, Hughes presiding over the tinkling coos and harsh musical squelches like a tall, castigating uncle: “I lost respect for you pretty quickly/You’re a pig just like your dad/Like your nan”. You don’t need to speak Welsh to enjoy being tickled and tweaked by the elastic-yet-banging, weary-yet-urgent brilliance. Even better is ‘Ymestyn Dy Hun’, which sprays out surreal, stuttering variations of the title over metallic keyboard clang and brutally joyous electro drum thump. At the end, the song folds itself into the title’s literal meaning (“stretch yourself”), pitch-shifted vocals twisting themselves down a million squiggly acid blackholes. You might not hear better all year.
As the EP’s subtitle suggests (‘Selection ’05 – ’09’), it’s a nicely scattershot portfolio. ‘Diolch Am Beidio Ysmygu’ is a brief instrumental sketch of Boards Of Canada-style choral noise peaking through woozy, processed murk. ‘CRFFRL’ almost reprises ‘Ymesytn’ in clipped, compressed fashion, while ‘Cyrette’ has a fractured, Aphex-circa-‘Drukqs’ serenity to it. All good, always room for one more beast though: ‘Salvatore’ moves relentlessly forward with sleek efficiency, a simple whooshbeat repeatedly hitting you in the face as a fearsomely wonky melody gets blooped and bleeped through mangled distortion and unexpected key changes. Its unending, remorseless playing with your pleasure centres reminds me of French techno molester Vitalic; high praise that, but nothing less than this great and strangely bejewelled EP deserves as a whole.
Reading Simon Reynolds’s ‘Retromania‘ over Christmas, and the sections about hauntology in particular, was a sweet serendipitous backdrop to endless listens to this next, similarly beguiling EP. The first material from Gwenno Saunders since leaving underrated pop heroes The Pipettes and moving back to Cardiff, ‘Ymbelydredd’ is soaked in the past, retreading Saunders’ childhood haunts and memories, cutting nostalgia with a healthy dose of hindsight. Musically it wrings a kind of miracle out of such sparse ingredients – simple home-fi keyboard sounds wrapped in echoed vocals and a little electronic backing is enough to leave the air dense with ghosts, conjuring home movies and archive footage as easy as breathing. It’s quite a trick.
Songwriting strong as steel helps too – the title track of ‘Ymbelydredd’ rolls in on mid-paced keyboard chords, melancholy clangs underpinning a childhood rollcall of smoking and hanging out in parks. The chorus celebrates then walks away from old love, the last line – “what do you have to offer now we’re friends again?” – stabbing like a stiletto. It’s incredibly sad, but moves on head held high. ’50c’ and ‘Ti Yw Madonna’ move with a similar kind of opiated shimmy, spinning tales of dance lessons and other childhood escape acts, the latter song’s chorus, hanging almost motionless in a cloud of cooed backing vocals, being particularly swoonworthy. It’s ‘Despenser Street’ that takes some sort of pop gold medal though, a classy flourish at odds with its subject matter of falling down houses in Cardiff’s unlovely Grangetown area. Serenely confident keyboard lines prod you towards a chorus taller than buildings, skyscraping awkwardly, dreamily. It feels like a secret future classic, certainly better than any song namechecking Neville Close should be.
These aren’t songs lazily mainlining a nostalgia fix; no crude Instagram-style sonic flimsiness here. ‘Ymbelydredd’ blows smoke rings around your heart, melancholic elegance refinined into pure pop brilliance. Next time you see those Peski dudes, buy them all the beer and cheese you can.