TINCIAN - 9BACH
LCM ALBUM OF THE MONTH - AUG 2015
Release Date: 12th May 2015
Record label: Realworld Records
Tincian is a sublimely beautiful Welsh language gem from 9Bach the winners of the 2015 BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for best album. The album's name broadly means 'a clear clinking, tinkling metallic sound', but it can means different things in different contexts, as so many words in the Welsh language do. Tincian is an album of competing themes: home and travel, birth and loss, personal experience and fantasy. These songs use Celtic folk traditions to create softly exquisite sonic patterns, lyrics and imagery around the central theme of motherhood.
9Bach's name too is a play on words and is ambiguous. Spoken aloud, ‘9’ is identical to the Welsh word for grandmother ‘nain’. 'Bach' means small and is also used as a term of endearment for anyone who shows you kindness. Literally 9Bach means 'small grandmother'. The band are Lisa Jen (vocals, harmonium, and piano), Martin Hoyland (guitars and percussion), Ali Byworth (drums and percussion), Dan Swain (bass guitar), Esyllt Glyn Jones (harp, vocals) and Mirain Haf Roberts (vocals).
The album opens with the stunningly beautiful Lliwiau (Colours) which is a song written about childbirth. It is a postive oulook on all the pain and craziness that is part of the experiance. It is a psychedelic description of labour and the contractions comparing it to the rush of Ecstasy. All the colours you can see, brightly coloured shapes, the tunnel vision, when you close your eyes and the instant love you feel for this soul that comes out. With a gorgeous chorus 'Tiws wyt ti fel Lliiwia' (Pretty you are like colours). It is about love and the promise to never leave, nothing else matters, you are perfect and pretty...like colours.
The second song Llwynog (Fox) references Gyrn Wigau which is a summit amongst the Carneddau. The fox stands still at the foot of this mountain hiding behind the rushes. He's escaped the shot of the gun and is much faster than the farmer's dog. The carcass of the lamb stains the stream red whilst the fox returns in triumph and head towards the Carneddau, back to his home in the earth.
Pebyll is a ruin in Llanddewi, Brefi. The song was written after discovering this derelict but beautiful building on a walk. It is a fantasy song about who may have lived there. A young girl with her grandmother (Nain). The child sleeps it her grandmothers arms, the fire turnings to ashes by the morning, where the fieldfare, thrush and sparrow feed on the nearby threshold, the snowdrops push themselves through the black soil to make Nain happy
Plentyn (Child). A child is snatched from her mother's breast by fiece men laughting. They hold her skinny arms too tight and throw her in a car, her black eyes and cheeks pressed against the glass. Screaming for her mother. Her mother is kicked and thrown to the ground and covered in red dust, hollering and screaming for her child (plentyn). The mother sings 'to please remember me when she is grown up', knowing she will never see her child again. She misses her daughters 'just woken up face' and the smile she first gave in the morning. It is an imaginary story about an Aboriginal child based on real shocking events.
Wedi Torri (It's Broken) is a song about seeing someone you love in a bad state. In this song the loved one is a broken man. It's the panic that sets in when you see this in someone, that haunted look on their face, the empty eyes and hiding from everyone. Jen sings about the guilt, the self-blame, the dry mouth and sending you off to somewhere dark, so you end up with two broken people.
Pa Le? (Which Place?) is a variation of a traditional Welsh folk song and is the only traditional song on the album. She is asking 'Where is my loved one' and is worried. It is so late, there are clouds over the moon, the wind is rising and temperate plummeting. 'Mae'r Pridd yn goch, ger twr y Lian' (the soil is red by the tower of the church) and so implies the loved one is dead by the end of the song.
Ffarwel (Farewell) is a poem that comes from a book of local songs by Ieuan Wyn, a nationally acclaimed bard and writer from Bethesda. It is about a quarry man leaving the Penderyn quarry for the first time. Retiring or because of a strike (who knows). But he is nostalgic and sad to leave. He will miss his tools, the banter and singing with his friends. The chorus is 'Glwi Di' which means 'Can you hear?'
Llwybrau (Pathways) is taken from a poem called Llwybrau Unig by William Griffiths, Hen Brac. The person is walking paths and feels nothing, things have changed and too many friends have been lost. The person walks and visits the gravestones of loved ones and wishes he was buried deep like them, This world is no longer theirs and the person feels comfort by nothing but 'angau' (death) and wishes not to be a burden to anyone. This person is very lonely although the world is full of people.
Babi'r Eirlys (Snowdrop Baby) is based on a book by Jerry Hunter called Gwreiddyn Chwerw (Bitter Root). A woman in the late 1890's give birth at home in the middle of the night in extreme weather. The wind is howling and crashing. It is a difficult labour that panics the father. He comes racing up and down the stairs, banging his feet in anger and frustration. The only comfort the women has is the sweet smell of the snowdrops in a cup that is by her bed. The lady finally gives birth to a boy, but all is not well and the baby is small, sickly and disabled. It is instant love from the mother and pure hatred by the father. He insists she put the baby under the bed to die by the morning. He has no wish to bring this strange looking baby into their lives and wishes him dead. She is weak, confused and scared. She complies. In her exhaustion and pain, she kisses him and cries, then bends over in agony and places him under the bed. But by the morning in her sleep, she has subconsciously picked up the baby and placed him on her breast. In the morning the mother and baby wake up together and they are both heathly. The mother sings this song to her grown up son who is a beautiful and talented man. It is a truthful ode to her boy, explaining what happen that night.
Asteri Mou means 'My Star' in Greek. 'I saw you in my dream and then you came to me, found me, to shine, in the dark, my star!' It's about wishing for the qualities in someone that you love to crave and then it comes to you when you least expect it.
Tincian is a beautiful crafted album that is very rewarding to explore and a worthy BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winner and addition to our LCM album of the month collection.