(review by Rhys Mwyn – pic by Dai Eastwood)
This gig, let’s call it a ‘Cultural Event’ (far better description) could have taken place somewhere like Düsseldorf or Brussels and would have made perfect sense. An event celebrating experimental / electronic music.
It takes place in the Millennium Centre in Cardiff…
Cardiff, the modern European City, as opposed to the grim post-Industrial city of the late 1970’s which gave us the Young Marble Giants, Moira & The Mice, Screen Gems and Geraint Jarman. It has come of age.
The ‘Cultural Event’ is called CAM, it is a festival of sorts, a Meltdown style collage of seminars, DJs and pioneers (old and new) of electronic music.
The event is curated by Gwenno and her fellow travellers at Peski Records and it’s the curation of this event that is the real highlight, the real milestone on the Welsh (International) cultural landscape. A well organised event in a nice venue, all very post-modern, right down to the rather excellent logo / graphic for CAM courtesy of Rhys Edwards Peski.
As an aside – the door handles for the Millenium Centre are by Welsh artist Ann Catrin.
Back to that European thing, I am slightly surprised that no-one else has done this in Europe, after all there are plenty of musical pioneers from the “Last Underground in Europe”, as the Welsh Underground scene was once described by journalist Steve Kingston in ‘Elle’ magazine.
If I were to list Malcolm Neon, Sgidie Newydd, Brodyr or Traddodiad Ofnus for example then it’s a strange thing that no-one has ever picked up on (any of) them and invited them (back) for a Festival in Prague or anywhere ….. or something ……
Some of the pioneers are taking part… Gorwel Owen (Plant Bach Ofnus and producer for Eirin Peryglus / Super Furry Animals / Gorky’s) hosts a conversation with Sam Richards, author of books on the avant-garde and improvisation scenes and the inter-phases (or not) between folk music and the avant-garde.
Gorwel manages the conversation well, by keeping it focused and engaged with the audience. Gwenno chairs with a confidence and maturity that reflects the cultural maturity of this whole event. It may sound simplistic to state this – but everything was treated with respect and it went without saying – that was the beauty of CAM 15.
One of the DJs at CAM is John Griffiths from Llwybr Llaethog, the first Welsh band to record a hip-hop track and dub pioneers who are still pioneering. In an ideal / more culturally informed world Llwybr Llaethog would be headlining the dance tent at Green Man or Festival No6.
Llwybr Llaethog still exist and still create in what must appear to be a cultural vacuum. Parch.
Another pioneer taking part in a discussion on the European Underground Scene was Ann Matthews from Fflaps / Ectogram.
Fflaps toured Europe extensively during the late 1980’s / early 1990’s and had the same sort of musical edge as bands such as The Membranes or Dog Faced Hermans – there was a bit of noise in there – certainly post-punk but never caught up in the cul-de-sac that Punk became in the wake of all the second wave bands (UK Subs / SLF / Sham 69 etc).
Sure, Fflaps were John Peel favourites; they released records on cult Liverpool label ‘Probe’ and did it in the Welsh language.
They would have challenged the CAM audience – the ‘Punk’ in me smiles at the thought.
Walking around the venue I bumped into Paul S. Jones, a contemporary of Dave Datblygu from Aberteifi. In the very early 1980’s Paul released DIY cassettes under the moniker Edward H Boring. He was ignored / overlooked by the Welsh scene, and any / every other scene at the time. Paul tells me he now does poetry mostly in English.
Obviously no-one recognises Paul and I would have not expected things to be any different. But this very fact also sums up part of the thinking perhaps that Gwenno & Co have tapped into.
Putting Datblygu on the bill is very reformed Velvet Underground in the sense, that back in the day Datblygu never had an audience like this. It’s an acknowledgement of how we got here. They may have done the odd Eisteddfod gig in front of a few thousand pissed up Welsh speakers in the 90’s but certainly in the Underground days of the 1980’s the largest audience they would have had, would have been in The Square in Harlow, The Fulham Greyhound or Manchester University Student’s Union.
Most of the 1980’s gigs in Wales were confrontational – from both sides. The audience was tiny, and not just for Datblygu but for all the bands on Cam o’r Tywyllwch (that first compilation album).
So we know there has been a 20 year gap since Datblygu last played. In that time they have attained almost mythical status – certainly cult status – helped along by a Super Furry cover of ‘Y Teimlad’ and the constant acknowledgements by Gruff Rhys. All visual artists benefit immensely by dying. Datblygu have benefited by not playing, by disappearing completely.
Gwenno is the author of a new chapter. Whether this is the final chapter or not, time will tell, but it’s a better ending than the previous chapter. Talking to Daf from Super Furries post gig, we both agreed that Datblygu could potentially milk it for the next couple of years. The fashionistas at your Green Mans and Festival No6’s would buy in to this – as would all the BBC 6Music, NME types. I suspect that this is probably not going to happen.
Datblygu played in front of an appreciative audience, over 500 of them at a guess. Datblygu were treated with respect, and for once I would argue that the respect is deserved. Nothing in art is ‘deserved’. You create and you hope. If you do engage with the audience then the art has worked in some way.
This was ‘classic’ Datblygu, just Dave and Pat…
Pat Morgan is ALWAYS overlooked in the Datblygu story. Perhaps overshadowed by Dave’s recognised status as a poet and visionary – BUT she is one half of this band. Datblygu are better stripped down, electronic and minimalistic. Of course I wanted Casserole and Cyn Symud i Ddim and Hollol Hollol Hollol and didn’t get them, but then I am a pop tart …..
There are already plenty of glowing reviews online – they loved that this was short and sweet with no compromise.
The audience loved it. Most were there for Datblygu as the audience dwindled slightly for the following acts. But they were young, sooo young and very arty. They could not have seen Datblygu first time round. Again no complaints.
Mission accomplished Gwenno and Peski.