VRï : Tŷ Ein Tadau1.10.2018 : Recordiau Erwydd
VRï are a folk trio that formed in 2016, intent on combining "..the energy of a rowdy pub session with the style and finesse of the Viennese string quartet." With Tŷ Ein Tadau, their debut album, they have realised this singular aim emphatically.
All three musicians already had established form before VRï - Jordan Price Williams (cello), Patrick Rimes (violin, viola) and Aneirin Jones (violin) can be otherwise respectively found in Elfen, Calan and NoGood Boyo. VRï is a vehicle for them to experiment, looking for a Welsh chamber-folk sound properly rooted in tradition. After a bit of trial and error learning they have found a successful formula - with a definite impact on live stages, and now, following a well-received first EP, capturing a rare energy on this self-recorded album.
The new recordings have been framed by the band as 'a revitalising, rediscovering and remembering of our musical heritage'. They have drawn inspiration from a range of traditional sources, most notably the cherished hymns of Welsh Chapels, with two tracks emphasising this declared link. Dewch i'r Frwydr, discovered in an 1859 collection, '250 Welsh Airs for a Shilling', has a melodic structure almost certainly conscripted for church use. It is joined on the album by Crug y Bar, a well used chapel tune. The mood of several others acknowledges the heritage explicit in these two.
Dewch i'r Frwydr opens the set - suitably hymnal and elegant. The music then sparks through Breow Kernow, it's first half an old English tune (Mount Hills), before the first song - Ffoles Llantrisant - with vocal duties impressively shared between the players to plaintive effect.
The mournful Crug y Bar then sets the stage for the first standout, Cob Malltraeth, an Anglesey folk song popular at the start of the twentieth century and discovered by the trio at St Fagan's. VRï have breathed real life into its resurrection. Beth Celyn's guest vocal has huge resonance and colour, the dark, fluid double bass line feels like it has been taken from a lost piece of sixties' psych folk, and the track is full of subdued gothic majesty; the middle instrumental section underpinning a wordless vocal is especially emotive.
By immediate contrast Cyw Bach is a set of vivacious tunes (the first composed by the Jordan Price Williams) that have not a hint of darkness and which lead to the album's second highlight, Aros Mae'r Mynyddau Mawr. The song's words are from the bard Ceiriog, and celebrate the eternity of Welsh culture sustained through its music and language - they are matched beautifully to an Irish-style melody by singer Lynne Denman. It is as moving a piece of folk music as you will find this year.
There is less intensity to the playful Clychau Aberdyfi, which is a mix of all the 'bell' songs the band know - sung in Welsh and English, the collage of verses answer each other as clear as church bells would across a Sunday morning valley. Which leaves a set of ebullient tunes (Taflu Rwdins), the stateliness of Tôn Fechan Meifod and Gŵr a'i Farch, the latter gathering pace to reach fast, full heights before pausing the tempo for a long stilling moment of reflection to close the album.
As you might expect from this collective of musicians this is a hugely accomplished debut - earthy, rooted folk played on chamber instruments - but it also has an immediacy and spirit to it that can animate the coldest of winter bones. The trio have achieved exactly what they set out to do - Tŷ Ein Tadau is a record that compellingly presents music that may be founded on VRï's already known virtuosity, but that has a profound, innate sense of life to it as well. In the simplest of terms Tŷ Ein Tadau is a marvel - an album of extraordinarily good, often beautiful, folk music.
Listen to and buy Tŷ Ein Tadau (CD/DL) from Bandcamp
VRï I Cyw Bach