Someone has been feeding Trwbador after midnight, and then getting them wet (okay, not so difficult for a band based in the depths of West Wales). The landscape of their forthcoming second album (out on 11th August) is familiar enough, with Angharad van Rijswijk’s delicate vocals, Owain Gwilym’s guitar patterns, subtle electronic beats and random tinkly noises all present and correct. This time, however, the landscape is dominated not by gentle, shy creatures with big soulful eyes but by giant avant-pop monsters in eye-catching plumage, cavorting exuberantly.
The first single, Breakthrough, gave a pretty clear hint of this new direction, with van Rijswijk just decorating the margins of a forceful but thoughtful rap from Essa (formerly Yungun); initially a real WTF? moment for existing fans, but insidiously addictive – and for those without prior knowledge or preconceptions of the band, simply a great song, catchy yet off-beat and distinctive. Track 6 on the album, CO2, provokes an even greater double-take: a muscular 4/4 drum track, vintage synths and distorted vocals in a furious tribute to Kraftwerk’s Radioactivity – the angry, ecologically conscious version on The Mix, that is. The title track, meanwhile, channels The Knife and Deleuze & Guattari (and the best bits of Girls Aloud, though perhaps I shouldn’t say that) to produce the floor-filler at the Will Self Discotheque – a future 12″ remix is a must.
It actually takes a couple of listens to realise that the quieter, more familiar elements of Trwbador’s music are still here in force, as eccentric as ever but more fully developed (if the first album had a fault, it was the way that some brilliant musical ideas were left in a raw, nuggety form rather than turned into actual songs). Start Your Car is classic Trwbador in their wistful St Etienne mode, while Love and Folly, the simply lovely closing track, evokes Astrid Gilberto and the Cardigans. Blue Minds (featuring Richard James from Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci) turns out to be a new version of a track from their very first EP, Little Lights; it sounds timeless, vocal harmonies straight out of 1967 (I hear mellowed-out Jefferson Airplane) allied to unobtrusive contemporary electronics.
At first listen, this is an album by a group that’s read all those ‘death of the album’ stories and produced a collection of brilliant, catchy, thoroughly downloadable but completely disparate tracks which have very little to do with one another. That’s a misleading impression; it’s not just that all these songs are recognisably the work of the same furiously inventive duo, happy to follow their muse in whatever direction it leads them, but actually the album comes to make more and more sense as an organic whole. The more that Trwbador hone their song-writing and production skills, the more they add unexpected influences and left-field guests, the more they reinforce rather than dilute their core identity. With harps and samplers, uniting the fields and woods of Cwmdu with the late-night dancefloor, Several Wolves is here to infiltrate your brain.
Pre-order from http://www.owletmusic.com/releases/