Home / Space Exploration – to Wales, the Land of Song

Space Exploration – to Wales, the Land of Song

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I'm in the process or moving, far too slowly as it happens, to Cardiff – or Caerdydd to give it its native tongue name – capital of Wales, the land of my mother's fathers, the land of song.

So, MySpace Exploration will be a short orbit this time.

There's nothing scientific in MySpace, this won't prove anything about the health of the music scene in Europe's youngest capital; people lie about their locations in cyberspace. Since I've set up my page numerous spammers have offered me tricks to boost my profile views and song plays, so all I can do is ramble at random around that tough little port city.

Doctor Watson started the Sherlock Holmes canon by describing London as a cesspool for the British Empire into which all the loafers eventually drained. In some ways Cardiff serves the same purpose for Wales, still overwhelmingly a rural country.

Cardiff, or Carediv to give it its local pronunciation, has an accent all of its own, is a football city in a rugby country and is tough and blue collar capital of the South Wales valleys in a country best known as a dreaming, poetic land of misty-eyed melancholics.

A good place to start is the home of The Loft Studios; they're based in the city's snazzy new Bay, a regenerated docklands packed with restaurants and bars, the stunning Millennium Centre concert hall and the Senate that houses the centre of devolved Welsh government.

There's an ever-revolving selection of the acts they've worked with – including a fair smattering of Welsh language acts.

My current favourite there is the dreamy psych-pop of Mesa, whose "Aikon" is a thing of great beauty.

Singing in Welsh is a political act; it's commercial suicide in a way but the survival of the mother-tongue in Wales has been a hard-fought battle and plays a huge role in the idea of Wales' independent national identity.

The neighbours haven't always been friendly and even into this century wiping out the language was a policy – my Nain and Taid (grandmother and grandfather) grew up when it was commonplace for children to be beaten by teachers for speaking their first language in school.

Sadly, I don't speak more than a few words but it is a beautiful, mellifluous tongue, and Mesa's dream-pop showcases its musicality.

Now, I haven't listened to drum and bass for quite a long time now – the rattling was too much, but in High Contrast I round some I could really get along with very nicely; he hasn't neglected the tunes you see. "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" could sit very nicely on any gangster soundtrack with its cleverly manipulated vocal sample. "Eternal Optimist" lives soulfully up to its title and while this is dance music, it is indubitably listenable dance music.

I've already translated a little Welsh and I don't know if the term Blim has any meaning to an American audience – in the UK it's a little bit of what you fancy, if what you fancy is a little bit of weed.

Now, The Blims, of Bridgend, will certainly bring a smile to your face too. It's a real gem of a band that seems limited to gigging on the local scene at the moment. They shouldn't be limited; their sunny, good-humoured sound showcases song-writing skills that deserve a wider audience. "Fuck Off And Leave Me Alone" is a classic to these ears. Nice T-shirts too.

YPP, or Your Popular Pariah, stretch my definition of Cardiff to Newport – but so much of South Wales really is a conurbation, so sod yer yer pedant. I'm sure John Frum isn't the first and I'm sure he won't be the last to sample the work of the legendary, sadly late and very great Bill Hicks' work. His use of the 'positive drugs story' and 'it's just a ride' fits the mood perfectly, features a compelling beat and some nice, suitably wibbly synths. This politically-inspired DIY artist is definitely worth a listen.

Already winning a following and good press are post-rockers Stray Borders, or is it math rock? I neither know, nor to be honest care, it's good rock: slow burning, heavy duty and building and dare I say it intelligent – yes, I guess I do dare, don't I? Godspeed You! Welsh Emperor, as an unimaginative reviewer might write.

Traveling a more mainstream path, but none the worse for it, are big tuned fellows Lucent, who do the power trio thing to a very nicely honed t and all of whose tracks are up for free download.

There's a whole load more musical going on in and around Cardiff, but take a look out there, it's a whole world in MySpace.

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