Sŵnami : Sŵnami

Formed in Dolgellau in 2010, Sŵnami's career ascent has been frequently punctuated and spurred by competitions - they first emerged into the public eye winning the 2011 National Eisteddfod Brwydr Y Bandiau (Battle of the Bands), fought successfully for a place on the Wakestock stage in 2012, and won a spot in the first BBC Horizons selection in 2014 (alongside Plu, Climbing Trees, Casi, Houdini Dax, et al.). Along the way they have also had Radio 1 airplay and featured at the international Eurosonic Festival.

This year they are set for a potentially unique high profile hatrick: already voted 'Album of the Year' by public vote in the annual Welsh music magazine Y Selar awards, then 'Welsh Language Album of the Year' at the 2016 National Eisteddfod - now they are in the 12 album shortlist for the Welsh Music Prize.

Sŵnami have drawn obvious comparisons with the Arctic Monkeys and the Macabees, and you can still find in their music the former's dynamism and edge, and the condensed verve of the latter; but all the recent acclamation is focused on their debut album, and its distinct sound - forged and honed in years of rehearsals and exhilarating live shows before it was finally recorded for a full album (although an effervescent EP released in 2013, Du A Gwyn, and a clutch of excellent singles, precede this release).

Sŵnami opens with the fragment 1:20, flawlessly stoking anticipation of what's next, which is the phenomenally good choppy guitar and synth pop of the first full track, Trwmgwsg ('Deep Sleep').

Following Trwmgwsg the song that received Radio 1 airtime, Magnet, has a mellower, elegant groove but makes the grade, as does the next track Gwenwyn (released as a single) - which is rawer and urgent; guitar driven and immediate in impact.

Mid-album Cysur Cyffur offers quiet, keyboard / synth grounded respite, before the momentum rebuilds and twists through Mewn Lliw, Mabeso (with its dazzling, angular and infectious melody) and Fioled - all three clever, classic indie pop songs - and is then fully unleashed in the rolling, freewheeling Cynnydd.

Guitar is again prominent on both of the last two tracks, the speeding Llwybrau and animated La Tramontana, guiding everything to a close with a squalling moment of rock exuberance.

Lively and intoxicating, danceable but with a creative, edgier hinterland; it's a scintillating set of songs - each one marked out by its energy, spirit and musical intelligence.

There are some great albums on the 2016 Welsh Music Prize shortlist, but this debut should be in there as one of the two or three real contenders - it's an album you could put in anyone's hand to irrefutably demonstrate the vibrancy of Welsh contemporary music.

 

 

SŴNAMI I Trwmgwsg