Gwenno – Le Kov

Gwenno’s first record, Y Dydd Olaf, was an experiment by the Welsh artist to incorporate her political beliefs with sounds she grew up with, and was moderately motivated by a dystopian sci-fi book of the same name by Owain Owain. The album was principally sung in Welsh, except for one of the most interesting tracks on the record, and concluding song on the album, ‘Amser’, which was a musical depiction of a Cornish poem by her father, Tim Saunders, sung in Cornish, the first language Gwenno ever learnt.

Her second record, Le Kov, is written entirely in Cornish. As one of the language’s few fluent speakers, Gwenno felt a responsibility to explore and create the record in Cornish, essentially so she could chronicle an almost forgotten language, as well as research and scrutinise her identity. To do this she researched attempts to conserve and develop the language, and the role of women throughout Cornish history. Considering the Cornish legends of the sunken Brythonic cities Cantre’r Gwaelod, Kêr-Is, Langarrow and Lyonesse, she found a lot to creatively work with. Indeed, these cities provided a concept that worked its way into the title for the album, Le Kov, which is the Cornish for, “The place of memory”.

Anyone who has listened to Gwenno will know her beautiful talent for melody, which is really the reason that audiences love her, despite most not being able to understand the lyrics she’s singing so beautifully. Impressively, Le Kov is no different. It’s a glistening pop record that is so splendid in its imagery that you can almost see and hear the waves crashing against the coastal bays, the chirping seagulls and the rust-tinged trawlers. The use of lonely piano, fresh drums, and inquiring synth lines seem to dominate the sea air.

There’s an exceptional balance of the light and dark to Le Kov. ‘Herdhya’, which means ‘pushing’, sees Gwenno exploring the political atmosphere in a soothing ballad. Gwenno explained that the song is, “About the feeling of isolation after the Brexit vote, and realising that you’re stuck on an island—Britain—with perhaps many people who are trying to push society back to a regressive idea of the middle ages”. Likewise, ‘Tir Ha Mor’ (Land And Sea) is a tribute to the tragedy of Peter Lanyon, who learnt to fly and tragically died after crashing his aircraft. At other times during Le Kov, though, Gwenno’s sense of whimsy is clear to see. ‘Daromres Y’n Howl’ (Traffic In The Sun) is easily the grooviest track on the album. Featuring Gruff Rhys talk-singing amid an incongruous brass section, it’s a tongue-in-cheek look at the little problems of the county.

Le Kov seems to be an artist getting to grips with her roots, and subsequently beginning to understand her inner-self a little bit more. She stated of the record that it’s, “A combination of accepting the culture which your parents have valued enough to want to pass on to you, regardless how small, and utilising it in a positive way to try and make sense of the world around you”. The record is an album that takes a little while to completely get to grips with thematically, but it keeps you coming back to it for its pure psychedelic melodies, and alluring vocal performance. Gwenno is a master of celebrating her individuality, and Le Kov is the next step in becoming one of the most unique artists Britain has to offer.

Liam McMillen