From the Margins ...

    Tŷ Pawb is the new innovative £4.5 Million development in the heart of Wrexham town centre, that brings together markets, business incubation, theatre and galleries under one roof. It will be launched with on Easter Monday, 2nd April 2018 with 'Dydd Llun Pawb', a day-long celebration with a carnival atmosphere, featuring live music, performing arts, crafts and a parade. Recognising the purpose of the building from the start, local community groups are being invited to take their place at the heart of the event - read more here.
    Following on from last year's list - these are the releases that have inspired us this year, and also those we have listened to most. They all have a strong link to North Wales, with the exception of Toby Hay and Oblong, who sharp-elbow their way in from further south on inarguable merit. Full 2017 Essential Album List.
    Released on 1st December on I Ka Ching, Y Cledrau's inaugural album has such elemental new wave dynamism, immediacy and energy that it sounds like much of it was written over a stolen afternoon spent on the best rides at a theme park. Y Cledrau have been at this five years now and it shows - they are a really well formed unit. The animated guitars of Joseff Owen and Ifan Prys, the thump of Marged Gwenllian's bass and the solid drumming of Alun Lloyd are all forged together to make this a noisy, engaging and hugely impressive debut.

    To mark the album a video has been produced (see below) of a live play through of the title track. It is part of a larger project - I Ka Ching are working in partnership with Welsh Language Music Day (9.2.18) to create a series of new videos, all filmed at Stiwdio Drwm and planned to feature Alys Williams, Candelas, Yr Eira and Ffracas.

    We were lucky enough last week to hear Caernarfon's Beth Celyn sing her heart out at the Horizons Launchpad event (see below) in Rhos on Sea - her first live performance since August. Her debut EP is out today (11th December) on Sbrigyn Ymborth; we have mentioned two tracks from it before on the site, the majestic yearning of Ti'n Fy Nhroi I Mlaen and the utterly fantastic Troi, from which the new set takes its title. Judging by the solo live performance the other songs included are equally well crafted; for the EP she has a band backing her keyboard & vocal - although it's a first release in our view she is already well along the path to being an essential, compelling singer songwriter. The EP can be streamed or downloaded on Spotify, iTunes or Amazon, hard copies will be available soon.

    This site started out as an exploration with just one author and no real ambition; it was an indirect, muted riposte to an unavoidably overheard loud, negative pub monologue about local culture. If anyone had read what was first uploaded, that would have been a plus.

    Just over eighteen months in a couple of thousand people often turn up to read From the Margins each week and some of the articles get read thousands of times. That is not earth shattering in itself, but shows the potential. The authorship has also developed; several people chip in opinions and we have uploaded some excellent guest contributions.

    For 2018 we would like to expand this approach and find more people who'd like to contribute, which in turn would allow more submissions from bands, and more gigs to be reviewed. We'd also like to publish pieces in Welsh as well as English. The more interest, the more we'd be happy to press reset to see how a site could be properly developed from the ground up to explore in depth North Wales' music, comedy, culture and politics.

    We have had a few conversations already, but it'd be good to have a few more - if you are interested, on any level of commitment, then please get in touch.
    This edition of the outstanding Desolation Radio podcast features student Polly Manning, who had a brilliant essay, A World of Gap Years and Gilt Frames, in the recent volume of Planet Magazine detailing her brief experience of Oxford University, and explaining why she transferred to Swansea after nine days. Another wide ranging and fascinating discussion, worth an hour or so of anyone's time.

  • HorizonsLAUNCHPAD 2017
    This year's Horizons Launchpad selection rewarded the applications of 34 artists with grants of up to £2,000 each, in the process endorsing the post-punk folk pop of Adwaith, the soaring vocal talent of Beth Celyn, the artistry of Names, the electronic art pop of Griff Lynch, the hard edged blues of Llandudno raised Nia Wyn (who we interviewed early last year, and still retains the title of the most engaging person we have yet spoken to) and, from Dyffryn Conwy, the unique space pop sounds of Omaloma and Serol Serol.

    A North Wales celebration of the awards was held at Pie Records in Rhos on Sea, notable for sets from three grateful recipients of Launchpad funding - Ennio the Little Brother, Beth Celyn and an acoustic Gravves - and the warmth with which the performances were received. The overall project is a collaboration between the Arts Council of Wales and the BBC, and as well as supporting emerging musical talent, also highlights its strength and diversity in Wales. The money can cover anything from essential equipment to studio time to funding a video or PR - it is a vital and necessary scheme that supports creative careers. The full list of awardees is here.

    NIA WYN I I Can't Breathe

  • FtM Icon2017 SONGS OF THE YEAR
    Rooting like an anosmic truffle hog through hundreds of songs released over a year, it is easy to make a definitive selection only for it to seem wrongheaded hours later. After a lot of iterations these final two tracks have been chosen for what they offer musically, but also for the promise they hold for 2018.
    • First Band Pres Llareggub's Cymylau, released to herald their new album and featuring a dazzling vocal from Alys Williams. For anyone who might hesitate before a song with Welsh lyrics, Cymylau demonstrates that music can completely transcend language whilst at the same time showcasing its vitality and vibrance.

    • Then from I Asked My Friends to Cover my Songs and This is What They Came Up With, Benjamin Mason's exceptional charity compilation of covers of his songs, the simplicity of Jodie Marie's version of Skies are Falling demonstrates her emotional power. That she has the blues in her bones, even on a low-key arrangement such as this, is undeniable.

    Plaid Cymru's Shadow Health Minister and Ynys Môn Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth cautiously welcomes an outline agreement for improved medical education in North Wales, and explains the path forward he sees for the NHS and Plaid itself. Read the interview.
    A fourth release for North Wales collective CEG records - Colossous is the recording name of Melys' bass player Rich Eardley. His four track solo EP has a straight forward energy that makes it instantly memorable and endearing - Vanarchy in the UK has a recipe of rhythm, subtle humour and guitars in exactly the right proportions. Review

    This interview piece has been written by guest contributor Kevin McGrath, who also writes for NewSoundWales, Wales Arts Review and Pop Matters. Kevin has a passion for music coupled with an encyclopedic knowledge, and if he sees Beth Goudie as an underrated artist, we should all take notice. The interview explores Beth's recent releases and the motivations for her songwriting. Read more.

    New bands desperately need venues to play - especially in North Wales where their options are patchy at best. As a practical, direct response a new group of young people has formed to promote live music in Llanberis, taking a name - Gigs y Gilfach Ddu - to mark the area's slate quarry heritage. The first planned date is at Llanberis Social Club on Thursday, December 28th, and sets out their intent with an outstanding bill - local bands Alffa and Gwilym booked to support the electrifying Y Reu.

    Sôn am Sîn music bloggers Gethin Griffiths and Chris Roberts are involved in the project, and have underlined the groups' aims: "We are delighted to be part of organising Gigs y Gilfach Ddu. In the dust of the old gigs at Y Bedol and Fricsan, locations that have closed or changed over recent years, we hope Gigs y Gilfach Ddu will revive the live music scene in the area." Bethel musician Marged Rhys (Plu, Bendith) has also welcomed the new initiative, noting that it will compliment and balance the resurgent live scene in Caernarfon, and give vital opportunities to young bands to develop their sound.

    It looks a very promising collaborative venture. Ticket details will be available soon (we will post them as soon as they are) - for more information check the Gigs y Gilfach Ddu Facebook page.

  • Focus Wales 2018FOCUS WALES 2018 : TUDUR OWEN'S COMEDY MARATHON : 11.05.2018
    Focus Wales, Wrexham's dynamic annual international music/arts/interactive festival, is stepping up its commitment to Welsh comedy with a new 'Live at the Apollo' style showcase hosted by Tudur Owen. Already confirmed for the bill are rising stars Hywel Pitts from Colwyn Bay and Bangor funnyman Johnny Williams. More names will be confirmed soon.

    Tudur is a well-established act on the UK stand-up comedy circuit. Having started his career in 1999, he is now regarded as one of Wales' finest comedy talents with a string of sell out Edinburgh Fringe Festival runs to his name, as well an impressive writing and broadcasting CV. He has been recently commissioned by BBC Radio 4 for a series next year titled "Putting Anglesey On The Map". Tudur is well known for his comedy whether working in Welsh or English; the showcase will be bilingual, and fun for everyone, regardless of Welsh language abilities. He is, as The Reviews Hub states, 'riotously funny'.

    As Tudur is one of our favourite comedians (read the last review), we are exceptionally pleased to be working in association with Focus Wales to deliver this event; Tudur Owen's Comedy Marathon starts at 7.00pm on Friday 11th May, at HWB Cymraeg, Queens Square, Wrexham. Tickets are £8. Early bird tickets for the whole weekend of Focus Wales 2018 cost just £35 and are available here.
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