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Llyn Y Cwn - Du Y Moroedd

Llyn Y Cwn Du Y Moroedd coverDu Y Moroedd is the latest album from Llyn Y Cwn, the musical project of Ben Powell. Previous releases on Cold Spring have offered moody meditations on the Welsh landscape in brooding drones laced with evocative field recordings scaling its vast mountainous terrain and deeper down into a disused quarry. Du Y Moroedd which translates as the black of the sea is anchored around the sea. Powell's day job is as a seagoing technician on board scientific voyages locating shipwrecks from past world wars and that objective informs this latest release. Elements of their slow mutating atmospheres and textures share an affinity with dark ambient but it is the emphasis on field recordings and the environment which sets them apart and also distinguishes this as an impressive release of drone, drift and atmosphere.

Using sounds recorded on these trips, Du Y Moroedd features source material made with submerged recording devices and field recordings from above, below and beside the ocean. Much of it takes place against the constant drone of the engines. Everything is carefully sculpted into slow evolving dark atmospherics. Du Y Moroedd almost soundtracks what it must have felt like to be hunted, tracked and torpedoed, with historical references to ships either destroyed or lost at sea.

The waters around Powell's base in the Isle of Anglesey play a significant role here. Casting off to sea shimmer and the call of seabirds with the intermittent clangs of a bell from the lighthouse in Anglesey 'Trwyn Du' slips into an ominous minimalist drift and the fate of the merchant ship 'SS Apapa' referenced in the title of the second track. Here amidst the roar of the sea with its gushing waves, you get sense of a ship's manoeuverings. In tiny machine based reverberations, so subtle they are almost ghostly evoking haunting voices in their wake. The following tracks may or may not tell the story of this ill fated ship but filled with atmosphere and the recordings of the sea they may well do.

'Adrift' is just that, the sound of a ship caught in turbulent waters with heavy, lashing waves almost masking the subtle drone shimmer as it sinks further into the underwater tones of 'Submergence'. The tension remains anchored around sustained minimalist drone but accompanied by lashings of heavy rainfall it becomes almost cinematic. There's a nod to Welsh legends in the title track and a mythic water horse which inhabited the water around Anglesey captured in the roar of waves and deep electronic movements.

Environment is pivotal to Llyn Y Cwn and they do a grand job in creating an atmosphere. Things remain pensive on 'The Hunt' which sounds decidedly underwater with its echoing sonar pulses, arcing reverberations riddled with submerged knocks. The evocative and haunting 'Descent' tends towards a more dark ambient sound in its slow moving shifts and shuddering desolate creaks. Perhaps it reflects the sinking of the torpedoed SS Apapa, as the following track, 'The Skerries', refers to the area close to the steamships final resting place. Either way, the little bleeps which surface amidst the rush of waves and engine drone on 'The Skerries' could easily map the search to detect the ill-fated ship.

Swapping the Welsh coastline for colder Arctic realms, 'Erebus And Terror' tells the tale of other sunken ships. The roar of waves are replaced with crackling glacial textures, and an unmissable sense of foreboding as a boat ploughs through fields of icy waters to locate those sunken ships.

What's most surprising about Du Y Moroedd and in fact all of Llyn Y Cwn's previous releases is that the deeply atmospheric and cinematic sound is created from field recordings, heavily treated guitar and synth pads with results almost unrecognisable from its musical elements. Llyn Y Cwn have described themselves as a "field recording based dark ambient project with focus on atmosphere and environment" and that's maybe quite apt. Hailing as they do from the same area as Lustmord, that dark ambient originator, I'd say that Llyn Y Cwn tend towards a more environment based sound. It is a sound much more site specific. The sense of location which in this case is the sea hangs heavy, which isn't surprising since the source of the material was recorded and often composed on a working research sea vehicle.

Du Y Moroedd is completed by 'Stratigraphy', a 30 minute track which I consider separate from the previous tracks. At its core is ambient isolationism underpinned by a rhythm but this final track feels like the curtain has been pulled back to reveal its constituent parts: the field recordings, the instrumentation, the engine drone. Everything the previous tracks had moulded and crafted into something new, lies naked and identifiable.

On the whole though, Du Y Moroedd is an impressive album of slow evolving drone, drift and atmosphere which is well worth seeking out. Du Y Moroedd is out now on Cold Spring.