Album Reviews

Trwbador – Several Wolves

(Owlet) UK release date: 11 August 2014

Trwbador - Several Wolves Sigur Rós once demonstrated that the emotive power of language may overcome any linguistic boundaries. Similarly, the Welsh/Dutch duo Trwbador developed a curious blend of Welsh and English lyrics throughout their half-decade long career. The linguistic blend mirrors their mix of the electropop and folk: two disparate sides that, for the most part, work quite well together. Several Wolves is no progression from their previous releases, but what is done – inoffensive electronic music – is done well.

Several Wolves opens with Side By Side, a chill and bouncy single that features Agharad van Rijswijk’s soft, gentle repetition of the refrain “never look back / never look back.” It’s immediately followed up by Start Your Car, whose four-on-the-floor house beat is bolstered by downtempo electric piano arpeggios. The latter is perfect for love-making or break-taking, and although it isn’t anything new for the genre or the band, it’s an example of good downtempo music that’s pleasant for any occasion, with a bit of Air synthscapery for good measure.

Immediate follow-up Breakthrough features British hip-hop artist ESSA. Though at first a little off-putting when considering the previous tracks, it quickly builds into one of the strongest singles from the album. ESSA’s rhymes are very strongly juxtaposed against Trwbador’s capricious production, and van Rijswijk’s nigh-syllableless vocals. Here, the strengths of Trwbador are most duly noted: a bit of flight and a smidgen of fancy to create some surprisingly dynamic works.

That being said, there are some downsides to the formula. Both Pictures and Love And Folly are little more than quirky electro-folk filler, the backings to unfinished works rather than full songs in their own right. Come To Me, Tomorrow has a bit more of the folk done better, with a glitched-up acoustic backing reminiscent of Dntel’s Life Is Full Of Possibilities closing track Last Songs. The duo’s simple percussion isn’t distracting in the slightest: sometimes, electropop songs put so many percussive breaks that they upstage the track itself, and thankfully that isn’t a problem here.

Trwbador show themselves to be quite adept club beatmakers with the seven-minute long CO2. The track has a Kraftwerk appeal in its circular, rotating production and robotic repetition of “carbon dioxide” via van Rijswijk. The four-minute build-up is totally worth the wait; if Trwbador had pulled a similar layering on Pictures and Love And Folly, the problems with either track would be nullified.

This isn’t necessarily an album to stick with for an entire full listen. Trwbador’s nuanced but chill style is extremely relaxing, but could easily become same-songy for most listeners. Those into the relaxed nature of Tycho will appreciate the acoustic guitar and electronic juxtaposition, especially on Blue Minds; while those in the need for something a bit closer to house music will enjoy Longing. The latter track, in particular, has all the capabilities of a mainstream hit, and it sounds like what electronic pop Top 40 could be if it weren’t as party-oriented. The title track to Several Wolves has some really fun flanger effects and oscillations as backings; it would be another perfect addition to a club mix and begs for some hot remix treatment.

Several Wolves is decent, if relatively flat. In a 10-track album, mis-steps such as Pictures and Love And Folly stand out pretty hard as they knock out a solid one-fifth of the total run time. Otherwise, tracks are relatively simple and are prone to blurring. There are, however, enough genuinely entertaining moments that don’t experiment too much with the established formula, but they do have some fun with it. Trwbador will certainly entertain fans of the quirky electro-folk genre, and they may even score a few new ones as well.

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