Huw M

Bilingual blurts on music // Eang yw'r byd i bawb


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To sum up // Tan tro nesa’

This blog documented the process of composing and recording my third album Utica, released on 13 November 2015 on I Ka Ching Records. I no longer update this blog as the album has been released out into the world. You can look back at the blog posts in English or in Welsh. Otherwise, follow me on Twitter, Facebook or visit my website for music, information, gigs, videos, photos etc. Thank you for your support!

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Roedd y blog yma yn cofnodi’r broses o gyfansoddi a recordio fy nhrydydd album Utica, gafodd ei ryddhau ar 13 Tachwedd 2015 gan Recordiau I Ka Ching. Gan fod yr albym bellach wedi ei ryddhau, dwi ddim yn diweddaru’r blog yma. Gallwch edrych nôl ar y darnau blog yn Gymraeg neu yn Saesneg. Fel arall, dilynwch fi ar Twitter, Facebook neu ewch i’r wefan i gael cerddoriaeth, fideos, lluniau, gwybodaeth am gigs etc. Diolch am eich cefnogaeth!

Huw M - Utica - cover


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Utica has arrived…

[Mae’r darn blog yma hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg]

The new album Utica has just come back from the printers… how exciting! After months of composing, arranging, rehearsing, recording, re-recording, mixing, mastering, it all comes down to one album – one piece of plastic covered in cardboard.

I may be old fashioned, but I do like to hold a record in my hand – a tangible, hard copy where the artwork and music comes together.

utica_bocs

For the new album we’ve had the pleasure of working with artist and photographer Kirsten McTernan, who’s based in Cardiff. You may be familiar with Kirsten’s work – she has a wonderful gift of reflecting the mood and essence of music through her photographs.

The Utica album was recorded ‘live’. As a band, we came together in the studio to perform together, live – and there’s a slightly raw and old fashioned feel to the sound. In many ways, the record could have been recorded 50 years ago… no modern sound effects, no 21st century trickery. And we were keen to capture this classical feel in the artwork and photographs.

So, without further ado, here’s the artwork for the album sleeve – the fruits of Kirsten’s work. The photos have been taken in various locations in Cardiff.

Huw M - Utica - cover backoriginal _KMT3765 copy 1 2

By the way, the latest with the album is as follows… Utica will be released on November 13th on the I KA CHING label, with a split single beforehand (I wanted you to cry // Sŵn y galon fach yn torri). We will launch the album in a gig in the Cardiff area on 13 November, with a tour to follow during the winter. More details to be announced soon.


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Mae Utica wedi cyrraedd…

[This blog post is also available in English]

Mae’r albwm newydd Utica wedi cyrraedd yn ôl o’r argraffwyr. Dyma benllanw misoedd o gyfansoddi, trefnu, recordio, ail-recordio, cymysgu, mastro a chrafu pen. Ac mae’r cyfan yn cael ei becynnu mewn un albwm, un cyfanwaith.

Efallai mod i’r hen ffasiwn, ond dwi yn hoffi dal albwm yn fy llaw – copi caled lle mae’r  gwaith celf a’r elfen weledol, gyffyrddadwy, yn ran annatod o’r cyfanwaith. (Pretentious? Moi?)

utica_bocs

Ar gyfer yr albwm newydd rydan ni wedi cael y pleser o weithio gyda’r artist a’r ffotograffydd Kirsten McTernan. Efallai fyddwch chi’n gyfarwydd efo gwaith Kirsten – mae ganddi ddawn arbennig i adlewyrchu hanfod a theimlad cerddoriaeth mewn lluniau.

Mae’r albwm Utica wedi ei recordio yn ‘fyw’ – y band i gyd efo’n gilydd yn y stiwdio yn perfformio’n fyw – ac mae ‘na rhywbeth ychydig yn amrwd, hen ffasiwn am y sain. Ar lefel dechnegol, fe allai’r record fod wedi ei recordio 50 mlynedd yn ôl… does dim effeithiau cyfoes, dim triciau sain 21ain ganrif.

Roedden ni’n awyddus i gyfleu y teimlad mwy clasurol hynny yng ngwaith celf a chlawr yr albwm. Felly, heb oedi ymhellach, dyma ffrwyth creadigrwydd Kirsten McTernan. Mae’r lluniau wedi eu tynnu mewn lleoliadau amrywiol yn ninas Caerdydd.

Huw M - Utica - cover backoriginal _KMT3765 copy 1 2

Gyda llaw, y diweddaraf am yr albwm ydy hyn… mi fydd Utica allan ar Dachwedd 13eg ar label I KA CHING, gyda sengl ddwbwl yn cael ei rhyddhau cyn hynny (I wanted you to cry // Sŵn y galon fach yn torri). Bydd gig lansio ar Dachwedd 13 yn ardal Caerdydd, a thaith i ddilyn yn ystod y gaeaf. Mwy o fanylion i ddod.

The new album’s first outing

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[Mae’r darn blog yma hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg]

On 12 July 2015 we performed at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff. It was our first performance of the new album, more or less, in its entirety. I was joined on stage by Bethan Mai on accordion/vocals, Iolo Whelan on drums/percussion/vocals and, for the first time, sisters Jacqueline and Deborah Marshall, who also sing on the album. The Marshall Sisters add a gospel influence to our sound, which I love.

Photographer Dan Green was there to capture the sound-check and gig (click on the first image to take you through the gallery)…


By the way, Dan Green also shot some photos in the studio when we recorded the album, which you can see on another blog post – The Invisible Dan.

And I’ll finish with some music. We were supported by a wonderful new band called Anelog from north Wales – take 4 minutes and 1 second to enjoy their song Melynllyn. It’s worth it…

 

This gallery contains 15 photos


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Perfformiad cyntaf yr albym newydd

[This blog post is also available in English]

Ar 12 Gorffennaf 2015 roedden ni’n perfformio yng Nghanolfan Chapter yng Nghaerdydd. Dyma oedd ein perfformiad cyntaf o’r albym newydd, mwy neu lai, yn gyfan. Ar y llwyfan, ges i gwmni Bethan Mai ar yr accordion/canu, Iolo Whelan ar y drymiau/offerynnau taro/canu ac, am y tro cyntaf, y chwiorydd Jacqueline a Deborah Marshall, sydd hefyd yn canu ar yr albym. Mae The Marshall Sisters yn ychwanegu dylanwad gospel i’r sain, sy’n hyfryd.

Roedd y ffotograffydd Dan Green yno i dynnu lluniau o’r prawf-sain a’r gig (cliciwch ar y llun cyntaf i fynd drwy’r oriel luniau)…


Gyda llaw, bu Dan Green hefyd yn tynnu lluniau yn y stiwdio pan roedden ni’n recordio’r albym. Gallwch weld y rhain mewn blog arall – Daeth Dan am dro i’r stiwdio.

Mi wnai gloi gydag ychydig o gerddoriaeth. Roedd band newydd ac arbennig o ogledd Cymru yn ein cefnogi yn Chapter o’r enw Anelog – cymrwch 4 munud ac 1 eiliad o’ch amser i fwynhau eu cân Melynllyn. Mae hi werth pob eiliad…

 


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Cob Records

[Mae’r blog yma hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg]

I was brought up in Bangor, north Wales – a small university city which has a rich cultural tradition, not least in music. Walking down Bangor High Street these days brings back some wonderful memories of a record shop that closed a few years ago – Cob Records.

cob2

Cob Records today

 

When I was a teenager I spent hours on end in Cob Records – an incredibly cool place, curious and mysterious, and somewhere you would not go to with your parents. Two floors were packed to the rafters with new, old, second hand, unusual, and brilliant music, and the staff there really knew their music.

The small yellow labels which decorate so many of my vinyls, cassettes and CDs pay tribute to the time and money I happily spent in the shop.

cob

This is where I bought the influential and formative records of my youth by bands such as Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, The Primitives, Snuff, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and Welsh bands such as Y Cyrff, Ffa Coffi Pawb, Yr Anhrefn, Hanner Pei and Topper.

These were the sounds of my teen years – and to me, like many of my friends, the Welsh music we listened to was just as exciting, and probably more relevant, than the music we listened to from America or even other parts of the UK. One of the great strengths of the Welsh language music scene was the unusual and rather eclectic mix of music that co-existed under one umbrella.

Punk bands shared a stage with electronic bands and, somehow, it all made sense. This is how I came across a wonderful electronic, experimental synth-pop band called Eirin Peryglus (translated as ‘Dangerous Plums’) – a genre of music I knew nothing of and listened to none of, except in Welsh!

The music of Eirin Peryglus is magical, and holds its ground to this day. I remember seeing them live at a National Eisteddfod, but what really created an impression was seeing their vinyl decorated with big pink writing in the shop window of Cob Records… it was love at first sight!

One of the bands’ most well known tracks, and one of my personal favourites, is ‘Anial Dir’ (translated as ‘Barren Land’) – a nostalgic, heart breaking and personal song that became quite a hit at the time. We’ve recorded a version of Anial Dir for the new album and, as you’d expect, it’s quite different to the original. Hopefully, we’ve managed to capture the essence and sentiment of the original and do it justice of some sort.

Times have changed of course, and despite the proliferation of websites and online music streaming services, I still get a huge amount of enjoyment and education from visiting good record stores. Thankfully, we still have some wonderful shops around such as the ever young Spillers Records in Cardiff (the oldest record shop in the world) which continues to give Welsh bands a vitally important platform right in the centre of Wales’ capital city.

One piece of news before I finish… we’ve just announced that the third album will be released on the wonderful I Ka Ching Records in the summer. More details to follow shortly. For now, enjoy the original version of Anial Dir, by the brilliant Eirin Peryglus:


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Anial dir

[This blog is also available in English]

Mae cerdded i lawr Stryd Fawr Bangor y dyddiau yma yn codi hiraeth am siop Recordiau Cob.

cob2

Recordiau Cob heddiw

Pan oeddwn i’n fy arddegau, roeddwn i’n treulio oriau lawer yn Recordiau Cob, neu Cob Records fel oedd pawb yn ei alw. Roedd hi’n siop hynod cŵl (os gai ddefnyddio’r gair uncool yna), eitha dirgel a ddim yn rhywle byddech chi’n mynd efo’ch rhieni. Roedd y ddau lawr yn llawn dop o recordiau newydd, ail law, anarferol, anhygoel a’r staff yn gwybod eu stwff.

Mae’r labeli bach melyn a gwyn sydd yn addurno gymaint o feinyls, casetiau a CDs sydd yn fy nghasgliad personol yn tystio i’r amser a’r arian nes i wario’n hapus yn y siop.

cob

Dyma le nes i brynu recordiau dylanwadol f’arddegau gan fandiau fel Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, The Primitives, Snuff, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin ac, yn bwysicach efallai, bandiau Cymraeg fel Y Cyrff, Ffa Coffi Pawb, Hanner Pei, Yr Anhrefn a Topper.

Dyma oedd sain ein ieuenctid – i mi, fel nifer fawr o fy ffrindiau, roedd cerddoriaeth Gymraeg yn llawn mor gyffrous, ac yn fwy perthnasol, nag unrhyw beth oedd yn dod o du allan i Gymru. Ac un o gryfderau mawr y ‘Sîn Roc Gymraeg’ oedd y cymysgedd anarferol o ddylanwadau a genres – roedd grwpiau pync yn rhannu llwyfan efo grwpiau electronig a, rhywsut, roedd y cyfan yn gwneud synnwyr. A dyma pam, mae’n debyg, y des i ar draws y grŵp electronig, synth-pop arbrofol Eirin Peryglus – arddull o gerddoriaeth nad oeddwn i’n gwybod dim amdani nac yn gwrando dim arni, ar wahân i yn y Gymraeg!

Mae cerddoriaeth Eirin Peryglus yn gwbl hudolus, ac mae’n dal ei thir heddiw. Mae gen i gof clir o’u gweld yn perfformio yn y Babell Roc ar faes y Steddfod, ond yr hyn wnaeth yr argraff fwyaf arna’i oedd gweld eu feinyl efo ysgrifen pinc drosto yn ffenest siop Cob Records… cariad ar yr olwg gyntaf!

Un o ganeuon mwyaf adnabyddus y band, ac un o fy ffefrynnau, ydy ‘Anial Dir’ – cân hiraethus a thorcalonnus, wefreiddiol. Rydan ni wedi recordio fersiwn ohoni ar gyfer yr albym newydd. Fel fyddech chi’n disgwyl, mae’n wahanol iawn i’r gwreiddiol, ond gobeithio ein bod ni’n llwyddo i ddal emosiwn a hanfod y gân, a gwneud rhyw fath o gyfiawnder â hi.

Mae’r oes wedi newid, do, ac er mor ddefnyddiol ydy gwefannau a gwasanaethau ar-lein sy’n ffrydio cerddoriaeth, dwi’n dal i gael gwefr ac addysg o fynd i siopau recordiau annibynnol da. Diolch am lefydd fel y fythol ifanc Spillers Records yng Nghaerdydd, sydd wedi rhoi llwyfan pwysig i gerddorion o Gymru am ddegawdau lu ac yn parhau i fod mor berthnasol ag y buodd erioed.

Un darn o newyddion cyn cloi…. rydan ni newydd gyhoeddi bydd yr albym newydd yn cael ei ryddhau yn yr haf ar y label arbennig I Ka Ching. Mwy o fanylion am hyn i ddod. Am y tro, mwynhewch fersiwn wreiddiol Anial Dir, gan yr anhygoel Eirin Peryglus


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Si hwi hwi, er cof am Merêd

[This blog is also available in English]

Mae ‘na ddylanwad gospel ar yr albym newydd ‘ma rydan ni’n recordio, yn rhannol oherwydd cyfraniad dwy gantores arbennig dwi ‘di bod yn cydweithio efo nhw yn ystod y misoedd diwethaf – y chwiorydd Marshall o Gaerdydd. Ond yn y blog yma dwi isio sôn am un gân yn arbennig o’r albym (sydd wedi dod yn dipyn o ffefryn i mi a’r band), sef y gân werin Si hwi hwi – enghraifft o hwiangerdd ‘spiritual’ Gymraeg.

150 mlynedd yn ôl i eleni daeth Rhyfel Cartref America i ben, a chyda hynny diwedd swyddogol i gaethwasanaeth yn yr Unol Daleithiau. Ac mae ‘na nifer o gysylltiadau diwylliannol rhwng Cymru a’r ymgyrch i ddiddymu caethwasiaeth yn America ar y pryd – yn emynau, cerddi a chaneuon Cymraeg gafodd eu cyfansoddi er enghraifft. Ac mae Si hwi hwi yn perthyn i’r traddodiad anrhydeddus hwnnw.

Awdur geiriau Si hwi hwi ydy Rowland Walter, neu ‘Ionoron Glan Dwyryd’ i roi ei enw barddol iddo – chwarelwr a bardd o ardal Blaenau Ffestiniog ymfudodd i Vermont yn America tua 1853, a dod yn weithgar efo’r mudiad gwrth-gaethwasiaeth.

Mae’r gân wedi ei chyfansoddi o bersbectif mam yn canu i’w phlentyn y noson cyn i’r ddau gael eu dwyn o’i gilydd, eu gwahanu a chael eu ‘gwerthu’ fel caethweision. Mae ‘na dyndra amlwg rhwng yr alaw swynol, hardd a’r geiriau tywyll, dirdynnol.

Ac mae hanes diweddar y gân yn bwysig. Hyd y gwelaf i, mae’r diolch i’r diweddar Dr Meredydd Evans (Merêd) fod y gân wedi goroesi o gwbl. Fel fydd nifer ohonoch yn gwybod – roedd Merêd yn ganwr, yn ysgolhaig, yn athronydd, yn ymgyrchydd iaith ac yn arbenigwr ar ganu gwerin ac yn gyfrifol am gyhoeddi nifer o gyfrolau o hen alawon, gyda’i wraig Phyllis Kinney.

Fe ddaw Merêd  yn wreiddiol o Danygrisiau, Blaenau Ffestiniog – yr un ardal â’r cyfansoddwr – ac roedd o’n cofio clywed ei fam yn canu Si hwi hwi iddo yn blentyn, fel hwiangerdd i helpu iddo gysgu.

Yn y 1950au, aeth Merêd i fyw yn America i astudio yn Princeton, ac mi gafodd o wahoddiad i recordio casgliad o ganeuon gwerin Cymraeg i label recordiau Folkways – record bwysig gafodd ei dewis fel un o recordiau gorau’r flwyddyn gan y New York Times yn 1954.

Tan hynny, doedd dim cofnod o’r gân a’r alaw gyda’i gilydd yn bodoli, felly mae’n debyg byddai’r gân wedi diflannu pe byddai Merêd heb ei recordio. Ac mae’r recordiad hwnnw , ar ryw ystyr, yn cwblhau’r cylch – ganrif union ar ôl i’r cyfansoddwr Rowland Walter symud o Flaenau Ffestiniog i’r Unol Daleithiau a chyfansoddi’r gân, dyma Merêd yn gwneud yr un siwrne er mwyn recordio’r gân a’i rhoi ar gof a chadw. Mae Merêd ei hun yn ran annatod o hanes y gân.

Ganol mis Ionawr eleni, ges i sgwrs ffôn efo Merêd am Si hwi hwi. Sgwrs ddifyr eithriadol ac roeddwn i ar y ffôn am tua awr a hanner – mwy neu lai yn trafod un gân! Er ei fod yn 95 oed, roedd ei feddwl yn finiog a’i gof yn anhygoel. Gyda thristwch mawr y clywyd am ei farwolaeth wythnos diwethaf – mae’n dyled ni’n fawr iddo. Ond mae o wedi ein gadael efo cyfoeth o ganeuon i’w trysori, i’w dehongli, i’w hail-ddiffinio ac, yn bennaf oll, i’w clywed.

Merêd (llun Iestyn Hughes)

Merêd (llun Iestyn Hughes)

Mae ‘na deyrngedau arbennig wedi bod i Merêd – gallwch ddarllen rhai yn yr erthygl hon ar Cymru Fyw.

Gyfeillion, mwynhewch yr anhygoel Meredydd Evans yn canu Si hwi hwi.

Er cof annwyl iawn am Merêd.

 


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Si hwi hwi, in memory of ‘Merêd’

[Mae’r blog yma hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg]

There’s a gospel influence on this new album, partly because of the contribution of two wonderful singers I’ve been working with recently – the Marshall sisters from Cardiff. But, in this blog, I’d like to concentrate on one particular song from the album (which is a firm favourite with myself and the band), which is the folk song Si hwi hwi – an example of a Welsh spiritual lullaby.

150 years ago this year, the American Civl War ended and, with it, the formal abolition of slavery in the United States. And there are many cultural connections between Wales and the abolitionist movement in America at the time – including a number of anti-slavery Welsh hymns, poems and songs. Si hwi hwi belongs to this honourable tradition.

The author of the lyrics is Rowland Walter, bardic name ‘Ionoron Glan Dwyryd’ – a quarryman and poet from the Blaenau Ffestiniog area in north Wales who emigrated to Vermont in America around 1853, and became active in the movement to abolish slavery.

The song is composed from the perspective of a mother singing her baby to sleep on the eve of being torn apart and ‘sold’ as slaves. There’s a clear tension between the beautiful, soothing melody  and the dark, disturbing lyrics.

The recent history of the song is also important. As far as I can tell, the song has survived to this day thanks to the late Dr Meredydd Evans, or ‘Merêd’ as he was fondly known. Merêd was a singer, scholar, campaigner, and historian of Welsh folk music. Along with his wife, Phyllis Kinney, they published several important collections of folk songs over many years which has helped to preserve our musical heritage.

Merêd came from Tanygrisiau, Blaenau Ffestiniog – the same area as the composer of Si hwi hwi – and he remembers his mother singing the song to him as a child, as a lullaby to help him sleep.

A few decades later, in the 1950s, Merêd moved to America to study at Princeton, and he was invited to record a collection of Welsh folk songs for the Folkways label – a seminal record that was chosen as one of the New York Times’ records of the year in 1954.

Until that point, there was no written or audio record of the melody and lyrics together, so we can assume that the song would have disappeared had Merêd not recorded it. And that recording, in many ways, completes the circle – a century after Rowland Walter moved from Blaenau Ffestiniog to the United States and composed the song, Merêd made the same journey to record the song and to ensure it’s preservation. Merêd is as much a part of the song’s history as the composer himself.

In January this year I had a phone conversation with Merêd about Si hwi hwi. It was a fascinating discussion which lasted about an hour and a half – more or less talking about one song! Despite being 95 years old, his mind was razor sharp and his memory impeccable. It was with sadness that we heard of his passing over the weekend – we owe him a great deal, as a nation and as music lovers. But he has left us with a legacy of songs to treasure, to interpret, to re-define and, most importantly, to enjoy.

Merêd (photo Iestyn Hughes)

Merêd (photo Iestyn Hughes)

Here’s the magical Meredydd Evans singing Si hwi hwi.

Er cof annwyl iawn am Merêd.

 


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The sound of silence

[Mae’r blog yma hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg]

One of the joys of spending time in the studio, especially with producer Frank Naughton, is the space and freedom to experiment with sound. Apologies if that sounds a little self indulgent and pretentious, but I guess self indulging in one’s sound is an integral part of the recording process!

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that the new album will have a more live, raw feel compared to my other two albums, so we’ve been experimenting with ways of capturing that sound on record.

Strangely enough, one of the most important instruments in any studio is one that makes no sound whatsoever – the microphone. I’ve been intrigued by Frank’s use of some older microphones to record our live sessions. One of these is a Reslo Ribbon Mic, popular in the 1960s, pictured here:

The Reslo Ribbon Mic

The Reslo Ribbon Mic

The same mic is seen in this video of the Beatles playing ‘Some Other Guy’ live at the Cavern in 1962:

 

Another mic that I’ve fallen in love with is this beauty from the 1950s:

Grampian dynamic mic

Grampian dynamic mic

The Grampian dynamic mic looks wonderful, and it sounds hoarse and unrefined – like a transistor radio – capturing that raw edge I was referring to. Here’s a clip of how one of our songs, A house by the sea, performed at the studio sounds using the Grampian mic:

 

And here’s how it sounds using more modern microphones:

 

What do you reckon? I quite like the rawness of the Grampian, but we may end up using a mix of old and new microphones when we come to the final mix. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I will leave you with a brilliant recording by a musicologist who mastered the art of capturing the essence of performances using only one or two microphones. Alan Lomax (1915-2002) was “one of the great American field collectors of folk music of the 20th century“, and he journeyed across the globe to record hundreds of musicians – famous and unknown.

This recording of Viola James singing I’m Going Home to Live with Jesus comes from Alan Lomax’s Southern Journey of 1959-1960, using an Ampex 602-2 “Suitcase Model” tape machine:

You can check out more of Alan Lomax’s work via the Association for Cultural Equity website. I’m particularly fond of the recordings of Welsh miners from Treorchy in south Wales singing folk songs such as Yr Eneth Gadd ei Gwrthod (The Rejected Maiden).