Y Dydd Olaf

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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra

Gwenno Saunders used to be best known as one of the Pipettes, and if she had vanished after they broke up, she would still have something really cool on her CV. With the release of her first solo album, Y Dydd Olaf, Gwenno (as she's now known) makes a name for herself outside of the group in a big way. The record was inspired by the 1976 sci-fi novel House of the Twilight, is sung entirely in Welsh except for one song sung in Cornish, and hits a sweet spot between the exotic electronic pulse of Broadcast, the candy-sweet pop hooks of Stereolab, and the experimentalism of classic electronic pioneers like Delia Derbyshire. These elements add up to something unique and impressive, especially when Gwenno's sugary vocals are poured on top. Even when the lyrics detail serious political issues, which non-Welsh speaking listeners will have to take on faith, Gwenno's voice sounds like it would melt butter, which is a classic way to get people to listen to what you are saying. Ask Stereolab. Even if the lyrics sail right over the listener's head, they will be caught like flies in a web by the rich and enveloping textures full of wonderfully old-sounding keyboards she and producer Rhys Edwards conjure up. Sometimes relaxed and dreamlike, sometimes insistent and driving, Gwenno and Edwards are expert at crafting songs that sound like they were made in a laboratory by vintage robots, while at the same time having a warmly beating heart. The best songs are those that feel like hit songs from some imagined era when the '60s and '80s were mashed together in a futuristically sleek collision ("Chwyldro," "Fratolish Hiang Perpeshki") of subtle guitars and shiny synths. The tracks that come off like close relatives to the best work of Saint Etienne ("Golau Arall") have a slightly off-kilter spookiness lurking behind the sunny bounce ("Calon Peiriant") or soar high in the sky with absolutely beautiful choruses ("Amser"). Gwenno is firmly in charge of her sound and presentation from the beginning, and Y Dydd Olaf is wonderfully assured throughout. Any one of the bands she calls influences should be proud to have inspired her; she's made an album that's worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as all of them.

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