Released: August 2014
When discussing his new Manic Street Preachers album, Welsh indie legend James Dean Bradfield listed local outfit Trwbador as an influence. This is high praise indeed for the West Wales duo that has also enjoyed acclaim from DJs and journalists including Lauren Laverne, Rob Da Bank and compatriot Huw Stephens. Their second album, Several Wolves, looks to reach the heights of their Welsh Music Prize nominated debut, and boasts a selection of varied tracks that explore the band’s folksy Celtic roots as well as metropolitan disco and hip-hop beats.
Several Wolves seems to suffer yet paradoxically benefit from a bipolar clash of sounds throughout its 10-track duration. It predominantly looks towards acoustic guitars and organic harmonies, yet electronic influences can’t help but seep through with drum pads and sharp bass lines enhancing tracks such as Pictures and Blue Minds, tracks that in the back catalogue of more conservative folk acts might have blended into obscurity. The way the band forces such diverse styles to fuse together is admirable, and for the most part succeeds in producing highly original work that blends the best of two disparate genres together.
Naturally some tracks just don’t work, though their sheer ambition is commendable. One can’t help but feel that Come To Me Tomorrow would have been better left without its electronic injections, as the soft vocals of singer Angharad van Rijswijk and Owain Gwilym’s effortless guitar solo both appear to seek a more relaxed guitar-based vibe. Love and Folly is a track that borrows from significantly less exciting elements of folk and R&B, feeling almost like the band has spread itself too thin as it tries to encompass a wide range of styles.
The vast majority of the album however serves as a finely tuned compilation of songs, mixing the rural sounds of the past with big city 21st century gloss. Trwbador really come into their own during the second half of the album, as they continue to juxtapose diverse genres whilst moving onto something a little more dance-orientated. Consistent with the band’s style-fusing mantra tracks, such as Longing and Several Wolves see acoustic guitars clash with driving beats and sequencer-based complexities in ways that one feels only this band could. Like the rest of the album they’re littered with SBTRKT beats and Fleet Foxes guitars but certain parts of the record just click in a subtle way that highlights Trwbador’s random yet glaringly obvious genius.
Once the listener gets a taste of the dance vibe, it’s hard to start digging the hip-hop stuff again, which is more a commendation to the former than a damnation of the latter. The album clearly peaks half way through its duration with the EDM stomper CO2, a completely unexpected seven and a half minute epic that had this reviewer regress into scrawled notes reading “Oh my god”, “What?!” and “Awesome”, and as Several Wolves eases back into the sound it’s more comfortable with, listeners are left hungry for more piercing bass lines and thumping drum loops that rarely make reappearances.
They’ve got the accreditation of music voices around the country and with this second LP it looks like Trwbador are set to enjoy plenty more. The clash of genres, styles and concepts on Several Wolves really shouldn’t feel this good, but it does. This Welsh duo has captured and polished a unique convergence of sounds that is showered in varied influences yet at the same time none at all. They sound like Trwbador, and Trwbador sound good.