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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Hwyl Nofio - Isolate (Hwyl, 2020) ****½

By Stef Gijssels

"Isolate" is an amazing album, reflecting the isolation of the Covid pandemic. "One more!" I hear you say, and indeed, the crisis did/does give a lot of inspiration to artists across the world. On this album they are Steve Parry on guitarlin (a hybrid of a guitar and a mandolin), toy piano, church organ, prepared guitar, harmonium, piano, noise, Mark Beazley on basses and noise, Rhodri Davies on harp, and Steve Sherlock on saxophone and flute. 

The band's name is Welsh for "Emotional Swimmers", and was created in 1997 by Parry. This is the ensemble's seventh release in twenty-three years, with Parry being the only element of continuity. I do not know the band's other productions (I listened to them now on Bandcamp), but this music is an ear-opener. It has a strong sonic voice, relatively unique, expressive, disciplined and balanced, dark and welcoming at the same time. It is hard to categorise, and usually that's a good sign. The addition of Davies and Sherlock creates more density than on the previous albums, more tension and darkness too. The desolation on the first two tracks is complete, and by themselves already worth the album. 

But the band surprises too. Some tracks such as "Isolate - The Singing Room" have some playful elements as does the last piece, called "Dolphins", giving an optimistic sense of direction to the album, from somber desolation to joyful freedom. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp