The fact that one of the best and most innovative creators of pop music in Wales is also one of the few people in the world who is fluent in Cornish makes ‘Le Kov’ an inevitably important album. I could go on about the history of the language, that has existed on the verge of extinction and disappearance for far too long, but all the other reviews seem to be doing that. Whilst Gwenno’s new project invariably uses the history of the Cornish language as a clear influence, it has more to do with the present and the future of that language and its culture, and how it can be used to mass effect in an age that verges dangerously towards linguistic homogeneity.
It could be argued that Gwenno’s last album, Y Dydd Olaf (2015), singlehandedly changed the world of Welsh-language pop music. The sci-fi driven electronic ode to an ensuing post-industrial apocalypse produced anthems such as ‘Fratolish Hiang Perpeshki’ and ‘Chwyldro’, that include hooks that could knock some of the Eighties’ catchiest choruses out of the park. However, Le Kov ditches the drum machine and embraces a sparser, psychedelic sound, that forces Gwenno into a new sonic universe. The classic synths and pianos that we know and love are still there, but they take a subtler role as she embraces the exploration of her Cornishness in a slightly different manner.
‘Tir Ha Mor’, the first single that was released by Heavenly (and suitably so), arguably serves as the album’s strongest moment, and its strong hook and catchy synths earns it a place on BBC Radio 6 Music’s A-list. Other songs such as the filmic swirl of ‘Hi a Skoellyas Liv a Dhagrow’, and ‘Eus Keus?’, that has to be heard in one of Gwenno’s live performances for full effect, demonstrate a similar sense of energy and drive. However the subtle beauty of ‘Herdhya’ and ‘Hunros’ are there for those who desire a slower ride.
Le Kov could grow to be one of my favourite albums of the year, even if it doesn’t redefine my life in the same way as Y Dydd Olaf did.
Words by Gethin Griffiths (Sôn am Sîn)