ANIAN - 9BACH
LCM ALBUM OF MONTH - DECEMBER 2016
Release Date: 29th April, 2016
Genre: Electronic trip-hop Welsh language folk
Band: Lisa Jen on vocals, harmonium, and piano and Martin Hoyland on guitars and percussion are joined by Ali Byworth (drums and percussion), Dan Swain (bass guitar), Esyllt Glyn Jones (harp, vocals) and Mirain Roberts (vocals).
Record Label: Real World Records
If you are looking to explore a high quality and brilliant album, something that is very different from a lot of modern mainstream folk music, then this one could be for you. I've been a big fan of 9Bach for a while now. Simply put they are a great and very inventive live band and one with a huge heart, conscience and empathy. After 9Bach's last album 'Tincian' won BBC Radio 2 album of the year in 2015, much was expected of their latest release 'Anian'. I'm pleased to report that it is equally as good, if not better. 9Bach are something quite unique...Welsh language electronic folk with an added twist, almost trip-hop at times. 'Anian' is a Welsh word and carries the idea of 'nature, the natural order, natural morality, the natural world, creation. What you are made of, your soul and bones and how you connect with other people. The album is sometimes dark and mysterious, always thoughtful and sage with stunning arrangements and instrumentation.....coupled with the soaring pure vocals of Lisa Jen. Marvellous. Don't be too surprised if this is a future award-winning albums and on many 'best of' end of year album lists.
The double-CD package includes the unique companion piece Yn dy lais / In your voice, wherein writers, actors, poets, and singers - Peter Gabriel, Maxine Peake and Rhys Ifans among them - give their own interpretations of the songs as a way to convey their meanings to a non-Welsh speaking audience. The eleven songs move from the rolling rhythms of Llyn Du to the piano settings of If an and Deryn, the layered voices of Brain and Si Hwi Hwi to the full band, Near Eastern climax of Cyfaddefa. At the centre is always Lisa Jên's voice, and the instinctive way in which 9Bach work together.
9Bach was formed by Lisa Jen and Martin Hoyland in 2005. The name is a play on numbers and words. Lisa comments: '9 is as in Nain, (pronounced nine), which means grandmother in the North of Wales, Bach means little and is also a term of endearment in Welsh. In one language 9 is something so mundane as a number, but in Welsh Nain is a cozy, family orientated lovely thing: your grandmother is a person we can relate to and visualise.'
The album opens with the beautiful and almost hypnotic 'Llyn Du' (Black Lake) inspired by a painting Iwan Bala that incorporates words from 'Un Nos Ola Leuad' (One Moonlit Night) by Caradog Prichard. It's a song sung by the Queen of the Black Lake, the Queen of Snowdonia. She has a manic mind, racing, forever waiting for the beautiful one. She's trapped, eternally pregnant, enslaved and left there as her thighs embrace the whirling mist and breasts caress the clouds.
'Anian' (Spirit/ Genius/ Anima) is a song about your nature, your vibe and your paths and veins through the earth as you get to the next chapter in your life, and the connections you make along the way. The song beginning with it's chunky electronic guitar riffs and feels like it should be on soundtrack of a 70's US Cop show, but then Lisa Jen's sweet vocals and harp kicks in....and it changes into something quite magical and ethereal. Probably one of my favourite tracks on the album.
A song sung from the perspective of a poacher is the central theme of 'Yr Olaf'. It's inspired by the picture of Sudan, the world's last male white Rhino. How does it feel to kill the last of something? What kind of person are you and what are you made of? Why are we so obsessed with destroying everything that is beautiful in this world?
'Ifan' is inspired by a play by Hattie Naylor, 'Ivan and the Dogs' based on the true story of Ivan Mishukov, a little boy who was adopted by a pack of wild dogs in Moscow. He was finally captured by the authorities, whose attempts previously had failed because of the strong solidarity between the boy and the dogs. the song is about the poignant moment when the boy and the dogs are separated, never to see each other again.
'Si Hwi Hwi' is a song about slavery. A mother holds her child tight and sings to the child, on their last night together, before she becomes a slave to the white man.
The haunting 'Cyfaddefa' (An Admission) explores the themes of the old Greek rembetika songs, the underground songs that arose from the hash dens, prisons and brothels. The protagonist is imprisoned and is pleading for help before realising bitterly, as everyone ignores her, that we are all guilty. We ignore all the bad stuff that's happening.
'Brain (Crows)' is a song from the perspective of a crow. The crow is pleading for the child to accept the gifts he brings. He's excited as he has learnt her body language and patterns. He lives for her happiness.
A poem written by one Wales' greatest bards, the late Garallt Lloyd Owens is the inspiration for 'Heno' (Tonight). In a contemplative mood, on the eve of the new millennium he wrote this lament for the Welsh nation.
The central theme of 'Deryn' (Birds) is an apocalyptic world. We've lost everything and so it's time to say sorry. It's a beautiful piano led song with a riff that reminds me of falling rain.
'Ambell Hiraeth' (Homesickness) is a combination of three Welsh folk songs. It's heartache and pain that hurts so much we are ready for the grave. The Hiraeth not only for a person but also a place. "There is appreciation for music and song that is a balm to the soul, a little hope. Then there is heartache and a gesture of "please save me, my heart will break... I can't live..."
The album ends with a traditional song 'Breuddwyd y Bardd' (The Poet's Dream) which conveys the last thoughts of an old poet, lonely as he takes his last breath. His memories are distorted as he remembers the good times and forgets any troubles and pain. "The dreamer dreams the dreams of his heart".