Gwenifer Raymond “Strange Lights Over Garth Mountain” (Tompkins Square, 2020)

Garth Mountain, or Mynydd y Garth in Welsh, can be seen from the city of Cardiff but also Raymond’s childhood home. Sitting astride the mountain reside burial sites originating from the Bronze Age. It’s possible to imagine that the ancient aura surrounding this prominent feature may have seeped into Raymond’s consciousness and influenced the sound and emotional landscape of this album as well as inspiring its title.

Raymond draws on a number of influences that inform this work that features her deft fingerpicking guitar style. Early Delta Blues artists such as Lead Belly are clearly at work in some of the pieces, of whom such artists Raymond describes as feeling,” Like outsiders with music as an involuntary expulsion, rather than some carefully created cultural presentation”.

Raymond also draws upon the influence of the American Primitive guitar style of John Fahey who deployed traditional country blues fingerpicking with non-traditional harmonies and melodies. This style can veer between feeling deeply rooted in early American blues to sometimes sounding more like a Raga from Indian classical music. Raymond’s pieces roam through instrumental improvisation, accelerating, then slowing tempo, developing sweet melodies which them become tempered by dissonance and varying degrees of aggression in their delivery.

There is a haunted, gothic atmosphere generated which Raymond may be drawing from her childhood where ” Landscape does a lot to shape a community’s folk music; from my childhood, I recall tall, spooky trees, black against the grey sky, breath misting in cold air, and I have tried to take something of Welsh folk horror to make my own ‘Welsh Primitive'”

The stand out tracks on this instrumental album are: ‘Gwaed Am Gwaed’ within which can be discerned, a feel of a Raga, Flamenco and Country; quite a combination, ‘Hell for Certain’ a dark aggressive delivery that still gives space for nuance and reflection and ‘Ruben’s Song’ which brings to the fore a stirring melody intermingled with dissonant tones.

Recorded in her Brighton basement flat, a long way from, Garth Mountain, Raymond has infused this recording with her Welsh heritage and fascinating musical influences. Take time to become accustomed to its sound, it will linger in your mind and haunt you.

Extemporary instrumentals influenced by American Primitive haunt the mind

About Richard Phillips 62 Articles
From the leaden skies of Manchester to the sunny uplands of Cheshire, my quest is for authentic Americana. Love live music, my acoustic guitar and miss my baby (grand piano).
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