Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Gwenno's third album Tresor is a heady, deeply rewarding treasure

"Tresor"

Release date: 01 July 2022
8/10
GWENNO Tresor LP packshot
01 July 2022, 07:27 Written by Janne Oinonen
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Tresor opens with the singer making an offer of a nice cup of tea to a visitor. As starting points go, it suggests a songwriter clutching for inspiration from the humdrum everyday objects (tea pot, kettle) situated around the kitchen. Gwenno’s third album far exceeds such meagre expectations: the unsettling scenes of a surreally frazzled tea party on the video for the opening track “An Stevel Nowydh” provides a much better harbinger of the heady treats to come.

Very few albums have a legitimate claim for inspiring a resurge of interest in a marginalized language. Le Kov, the second album by Cardiff-based songwriter Gwenno Saunders, managed just that, boosting the profile of Cornish, the old but very much alive language of Cornwall taught to Saunders by her father. Sung again almost entirely in Cornish, Tresor is more than likely to continue that trend. However, the magnetic pull of Gwenno’s music isn’t in any way reliant on language-based novelty or activism. Tresor translates as a treasure, making this an uncommonly aptly titled album.

Inspired by the singer’s experiences of motherhood and possibly also the ample opportunities for inner space exploration provided by the enforced isolation of covid lockdowns, Tresor is in some ways a gentler album that its predecessor. Don’t enter here expecting soothing lullabies, however.

Saunders and collaborator Rhys Edwards have assembled an impressively rich and deep-sounding record that suggests we’re checking in on a well-oiled band rather than two musicians layering instruments and found sounds (the tinkle of hotel piano’s strings, a gate clanging shut with resounding finality) in their living room. Psychedelic pop is a more or less accurate description, and subtle whiffs of Jane Weaver (the cosmic balm of the title track) and very early Goldfrapp (the hushed glide of closer “Porth La”) float by.

Although unfailingly accessible (“Anima” in particular is impossible to shake off once heard), this is a refreshingly strange combination of psych-rock dynamics, pop-savvy hooks, homespun electronica and ancient-sounding melodies. At times, the results suggest a contemporary soundtrack to one of cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s mind-meltingly surreal epics (the nagging one-chord psych mantra meltdown of “Ardamm”) or early Kraftwerk tackling medieval music in an advanced psychedelic state (“Kan Me”). The haunting slow-burn of “Tonnow” comes across like a sepia-tinged band transmitting from one of the villages sunken to make way for a reservoir or from the furthest corner of an impenetrable cave.

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