Sbwriel Gwyn is a very unusual record, but not because it’s wholly in Welsh.
The language does add a dimension, but the ‘unusual’ really comes from what this record is born from. So many influences abound throughout, and not always from where you expect. As one track leads expectation in one direction, the next befuddles and surprises with where Los Blancos take you next.
A full Welsh language album leads to thoughts of pastoral beauty and evocative charm, fairly or unfairly, of Super Furry Animals’ Mwng or anything by Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci (even though they’re not in Welsh). It will have a lot to live up to.
Los Blancos have looked at Mwng, and the rest, and basically said ‘bollocks to that’. They’ve trudged over to a corner and created their own brilliant rock record.
What’s more apparent is their sound. Heavily distorted, often powerful and wonderfully lo-fi, Los Blancos have taken inspiration from some wonderfully diverse places. With hints of Mudhoney, Pavement, The Velvet Underground, Parquet Courts, Sebadoh and more peppered throughout the album, it feels like a homage to a sound that no one makes anymore.
The title-track oozes a slouchy dissonance that is akin to Parquet Courts, while Ti Di Newid has a hazy and fuzzy trudge that brings to mind some very fine Mudhoney and Dinosaur Jr. moments from way back.
And this continues: Dilyn Iesu Grist’s hypnotic brilliance comes from its high-energy stoner rock and shoegaze mashup, think The Warlocks or Brian Jonestown Massacre. But to contrast moments like this, Los Blancos suddenly turn more reflective on the ballady Cadw Fi Lan, or on the slow burn of Datgysylltu.
And then there are the crazy moments, like Chwarter I Dri which has a country twang buried somewhere in there. Or Pymtheg Ston o Anhrefn Pur, which sounds like a cross between Campag Velocet and Art Brut, in that it’s probably going for earnest but somehow seems sarcastic and is no worse for it.
What all this adds up to is a rollercoaster of an album. One that switches tempos, moods and styles almost out of hand, an album that’s a barrage of moments. With each listen you notice something that seemingly wasn’t there before.
What adds to this is the production, which has a genuine warmth to it. No matter how spiky the playing or the song is, there’s a rumble and heart to the album that helps make it feel more familiar, like something you’ve always had in your collection.
Sbwriel Gwyn is an amazingly accomplished debut with very few wasted opportunities. Los Blancos treat every one of the 12 tracks as an opportunity to showcase what they do, and it works. There’s no dead time or half-hearted ideas.
It’s exciting and crazed, familiar yet original, compelling and affecting. And most importantly, it’s never dull or expected, leaving a record that you can come back to and never know what you’re going to find.