BOI comes waltzing in with a cosmic cloak of dazzling brilliance. It’s a sound that sparkles and the star-bright glow of its more showy elements provide a gorgeous sky to stare at while you stomp muddy footed through the more heavier roots at the heart of the sound.
The guitars ring out with a gorgeous tone, they are at times completely feral, and at others tamed to the point of choral harmonies on command. The drums are another massive part of the sound, their primal presence is felt strongly in every track, providing a guiding hand as well as a loving shove to the other instruments whenever necessary.
Vocally it’s an incredibly interesting offering. Not only is the band singing in Cymru which makes for a delightful sound and one far too rare in popular music. The language is melodic at its core but also very consonant heavy and guttural. There is something incredibly powerful hearing it unchained and used for rock music.
The first track Heidio Mae’r Locustiaid introduces the sound, it’s big, it’s boisterous, and it’s bonkers. Nothing sounds like this, and not only because it’s in Welsh. It has the psychedellic undercurrent of the Dandy Warhols along with a dastardly dash of something a little bluesier and more menacing like Black Sabbath.
Tracks like Ddim Yn sant, show off the sparkier side of the band. With jangling guitar licks and a bit more of a classic roar in the tone it provides a more standard rock’n’roll fair.
Track 3 Ribidires takes it down a notch to serve up something with a bit more of a subtle smoulder to it. It’s also the first track that dragged me in for a good ol singalong with the choral “sha-la-la” in the bed of the track. It has this timeless retro feel to it, a song set adrift with no decade to call it’s own, drawing from the best of all of them.
Yyns Angel keeps the tempo down for a minute with what I can only assume plays out as a fairly standard love ballad. It’s a nice breather in the middle of an album that for that most part keeps the energy fairly raucous.
Rheswm Am Godwm serves up one of the filthiest riffs on the album and probably sticks out as a favourite. The introduction and main refrain has this prowling primal dark energy that roars through the guitar. Rather than pounce as expected though the song decides to provide another cheek offering the ying to the yang in the form of some pretty joyful sounding chords and vocal melodies. It’s a nice juxtaposition, even if I was a little disappointed to lose that menacing prog feel the track promised from the start.
The power gets turned up yet again for Twll Dan Staer, which begins with this marching electricity that builds and builds and this time is released as expected into a more powerful plateau. The song has an interesting progression and a great feel to it. Around the middle we take a short break with the tease of a musical break before we’re back into the stomping, chomping, main riff of it. It’s another highlight and one that will stick in the memory, especially as it introduces some English lyrics.
Cael Chdi Nol continues on in the vein laid by the two songs before. It digs a little deeper and honestly if the album has a glittering peak these three tracks soundtrack it. Filled with this infectious energy each of them let you peek underneath the skin to see the blood that pulses underneath. They’re thick enough to sink your teeth into and not let ago. The music, vocals, and pace all coming together to create this tempting feast.
From here we take a dive into Cwcw Cloc which begins to slow things down a little heading into the tail end of the album. It’s another one that provides lyrics that are either English or recognisable to the the English speaker with the main refrain possibly referencing a clock. It’s a confident rock’n’roll song in the Rolling Stones style and brings to mind an energy that defies time and date, following it’s own soul.
Llad Amser jostles it’s way forward with a ridiculous little riff that is very Queens Of The Stone Age in style and in tone. It’s a strutting and very tasty track that possibly provides one of the most obvious in terms of allowing the instrumentation take a walk and enjoy itself fully. It’s a rich full sound and it only gets groovier when the shaker comes in.
The album ends with Tragwyddoldeb which is both the slowest and most emotional offering. It’s the perfect way to bring everything to an end, and it sounds like a beautiful ode and culmination of what came before. It has this meloncholic energy to begin with but it soon breaks on the drums and a punchier more hopeful and cheery heartbeat emerges from within.
BOI know how to put a beautiful soundscape together, whether in pure instrumentation or with vocal echoes or choruses. Every track has this delicious fullness to it that would sate even the hungriest of listeners.
I listen to a lot of music in foreign languages but have to admit this might be the first time listening to lyrics in Cymru. As a language it has this beautiful, almost mythic quality, and it beckons the listener in (especially if they call the UK their home) with its strong roots and history.
This is a band doing their own thing, it has this indescribable art to it, like with Bowie or Bolan. It has this powerful rock energy at it’s heart, but it veers left, taking a much softer approach to it rather than the clenched fists, and strained voices we might be most used to finding there.
It’s not the kind of album that will necessarily resonate with you on the first listen. But give it a chance and even on the second some of the songs start to shift and merge into a shape that makes more sense. I was singing along by the third and I don’t even speak the language.
Words by Matt Miles