Album Reviews

Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18 – Mas

(Banana & Louie) UK release date: 26 February 2021

Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18 - Mas

Stuck on lockdown in his Cardiff hometown, frustrated and dreaming of relaxing in the balmy climes of his beloved South America, Carwyn Ellis recently dove into Shawn Lee’s London studio and worked night and day to bring forward the release of this, the follow up to 2019’s jazzily optimistic Joia! album. Ellis had originally planned to spend a little longer working on the album and maybe release it next year due to his commitments as touring member of The Pretenders and Colorama, but unfortunately for him, global affairs put paid to those plans.

Continuing his affectionate cannibalisation of Tropicalia, Cumbia and shuffling Bossa Nova melodies all sung in the Welsh language, Mas is adorably contagious and exotically liberated, but behind its clement sentimentality and irreverent blend of styles lies a darker political edge, with lyrics referencing ecological catastrophe and the recent troubles in North America. Ar Õl Y Glaw (After The Rain) was written following the murder of George Floyd and opens the record. Wrapped in thoughtfully modernist samba textures, its message is subsequently obscured except to those able to speak the native tongue.

Cwcan (Cooking) owes its existence to Tito Puente’s much-covered kitschy classic Oye Como Va. Recruiting Caernarfon vocalists Elan & Marged Rhys to perform backing duties, its persuasive rhythms shift its mood from painfully self-conscious to bordering on civically righteous and then on Dwyn Dwr, Ellis and companions perform a brightly feathered fusion of Dolly Parton’s Jolene and Raffaella Carrà’s sultry disco smash Do It Again. The creative peak is the gently ambulatory lullaby Cestyll Papur (Paper Castles). Staying true to his instinctually playful musical palette Ellis, in celebratory fashion, the track ciphers the vast continents sophistication as well as its historic predilection for violent revolution, proving that music intended as an act of resistance, needn’t be ugly, angry or sad.

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Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18 – Mas