Mared : Y Drefn

Y Drefn is a shimmering, spellbinding debut album from North Walian singer-songwriter Mared Williams, shaped by a graceful mix of folk, pop and jazz, a dash of the drama of musical theatre and a voice as compelling as it is beautiful.

The album was written and pieced together over six years, evolving with quickening pace when Mared worked with Osian and Branwen Williams and Ifan Emlyn at Sain Studio, near Caernarfon, last year.

The music that has resulted from so much preparation is flawless - never overworked or overwrought, Y Drefn is the emotionally pitch perfect recording of a majestic set of self-written songs.

Throughout the album instrumentation is restrained, used to create a frame and a mood for Mared’s centre stage vocal performance. Piano underpins most of the songs, soft-hued percussion accentuates the atmosphere and there is a touch of genius to the spare use of Gwyn Owen's trumpet and french horn to add subtle colour.

There are ten tracks - eight sung in Mared’s native Welsh, two in English. Language is no barrier to accessing the close-woven artistry of the songs.

Every beat of Mared’s heart is in the music - from the soaring, sinuous opening track, Y Reddf, to the last, Dal ar y Teimlad, a song of hope about letting go of the past, punctuated by a wordless vocal full of rapture.

The simple, understated guitar and vocal of the title track is the album’s possible highlight. The quiet magnificence of the arrangement of traditional folksong Gwydr Glas runs it close. The a cappella opening of Yno yn Barod is stunning. But this is very much an album to take as a whole - it is an absorbing, immersive experience; as stilling and complete as the early morning silence at the heart of a dense forest.

Mared recently made her West End debut in Les Misérables - elsewhere, her work has ranged from collaborations with the electronic duo Denton Thrift to Sain Studio’s 50th Anniversary Concert with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

The energy and versatility for such a breadth of activity comes from an urgent creativity. Mared is one of the most important new artists to emerge from Wales in the last decade. Y Drefn is the undeniable, breathtaking proof of that statement.