Review: Esuna – May You Be Well EP

Esuna: a spell in Final Fantasy that alleviates all ills (I think). Also, a band whose new EP alleviated my ill mood prior to sitting down to write this ‘ere review. If there’s one thing I like, it’s when something does what it says on the packet and then goes a little beyond.


This 5-track debut from the Cardiff four-piece has a distinctly assertive sound, confidently toeing the line between uplifting melodies and delightful grittiness.

Straight away, you are plunged into the high-energy mixpot of Sleep. ‘High energy?! Sleep?!’ I hear you say. Quite right you are with your interrobangs, but I can assure you that this song carries off tight guitars that serve to drive the more jaded lyrical content remarkably well.

The unpredictability of the songs’ structures never leave you ill-at-ease because some of the more stark contrasts between the elements of math rock and indie pop are carried with such effortlessness that it seems seamless. This is perfectly executed in the EP’s climax – Later Days – whereby the angst-ridden vocals meet instrumentation which seems set to soar, but settles on eventually lulling to a close.

So may you too be well, Esuna, in hope of more like this.

[disclaimer: I have never played Final Fantasy. Please don't shoot me down for not knowing about status afflictions and health.]

Stream Dancers Brand New EP on Plastik

It’s always nice when your favourite new band affirms your faith and their talent by at last putting a run of songs together in the more tangible form of an EP or album. In the case of Cardiff, Denbigh, Leeds, London and a few other places’ Dancers, we’d be hard pushed to describe them as a favourite new band, even if with their new EP they may be to you.

The record, titled What You Want I Can’t Get It All But What I Do I Do It All For You has been well over 2 years in the making and the band dates back to a Uni bedroom project in the mind of frontman/songwriter Dafydd Myddleton all the way back in 2010. They played sprinkles of gigs with a full formed band (numbering anywhere from 1-6 people) as the ideas that form the new material began to develop until late 2011, when Daf’s upping of sticks to Canada made the recording and mastering process significantly harder, unsurprisingly.

“This record has actually been a long time coming. We’ve spoken before about being quite spread out over the planet and how it really delayed this release. It turns out that trying to finish a record over email is quite hard after all. “


Recorded over several months (by a man I’m told, who is merely called ‘Alun’, the lengthened process does show – but not in pragmatic terms, rather in the thoroughly recrafted and honed sound, particularly how well the production matches the mood of the songs. The delayed gratification is all the more satisfying for now long-time listeners but the confidence of the new songs immediately demonstrates to newbies just how long these ideas have been gestating and improving.

As punchily-pavementy brilliant as their early songs were, the tunes here are a step up – confident noise-pop that is affecting yet understated in its melancholic melodies.

You can see them live next week at Four Bars @ Dempseys in Cardiff on Saturday 26th July. It should be a long awaited celebration for fans and friends of the band and having see them perform a free set at Gwdihw in late May, it’s a guarantee it will be worthwhile going. For now – enjoy the EP below or download it to listen at your leisure from


Review: Kutosis – Dream It Away


Ever since hearing the reverb laden guitar tones of new single ‘Fear of Flying,’ Kutosis’ local followers have been waiting to hear whether the band’s second album will confirm their transformation from scuzzy Clwb punks to dissonant, shoegazing surf rock purveyors. Dream It Away’s opening track ‘This Avalanche Is’ might be a clue: following vibrato soaked arpeggios, the Cardiff heroes launch into a guitar pop assault that maintains the raw power of debut album Fanatical Love while also displaying musical growth.

More proof arrives in the form of ‘Old Judas,’ which offers flashes of the band’s garage rock past alongside the additions of airy, reverb laden octave vocals, drawing new attention to Ian Jones’ distinctive, accented voice and insightful lyrics. Atonal fretboard clambering in the next track ‘Horizons’ provides another welcome trip back to those early eardrum-threatening gigs, so fans of the old sound needn’t fear of this band abandoning their gutsier side.

That said, it’s the new territory explored on this album that provides the most cause for excitement. In particular, ‘Something In The River’ is an unpredictable, grungey powerhouse; its haunting, melodic chorus plays third wheel to a creeping duet of bass and toms, playing out like an obscure Nirvana B-side in its quiet-LOUD-quiet refrain. Elsewhere, ‘Short Stories” provides a neat summation of Kutosis’ sonic journey. “Just let it out, this is your art,” the chorus howls, acknowledging the importance of progressing from previous efforts, creating something new, uncharted and brave.

By closing number ‘Volcano,’ it seems that the band have reached their breaking point, and are on the verge of snapping like a tortured guitar string. In a good way, of course – their last dissonant effort is an exercise in musical tension right until its last note, where the song implodes and leaves its listeners to wonder what will come next for a band who have conquered their home city but thoroughly deserve to be recognised further afield. Indeed, Kutosis have grown beyond their traditional onslaught to become a band capable of multi-textured, complex and unpredictable tunes, making them a trio to be reckoned with both within and beyond the Welsh border.

Dream It Away is out now on Jealous Lovers Club. You can buy it via Music Glue here, Bandcamp as well as in the usual record selling places.

Photos/design by Adam Chard @ Croatoan Design

Live Review: Quartet @ Four Bars

Heading to Womanby Street for a concert is a standard experience for many a Cardiff music lover. At Four Bars on Sunday 30th June, however, Sinfonia Cymru String Quartet were tuning and warming up in the corner – not your typical pub gig. Curtains closed, dim mood lighting, a selection of tables and chairs. Instantly the space is cosy, inviting. The audience was pretty varied, from students to the standard ‘classical music concert’ attendee but all were generally relaxed, chatting, enjoying a beverage in anticipation for the evening to begin.


The programme began with the 1st movement off Schulhoff’s Five pieces for string quartet, a piece and composer I hadn’t come across before and a really great discovery. An exciting opening to the concert that had a real crunch to the sound and a great drive for its use of the Waltz form. Other highlights of the programme included Sibelius’ String Trio in G Minor, a beautiful piece that really does move the listener. Full of lush harmonies and understated melodies, lovely.

This was followed by some standard string repertoire from Haydn, Handel and Bach, all played very well. The choice of the 1st movement from Shostakovich’s String Quartet no. 6 seemed odd, mainly as there is a large amount of great string quartet music by Shostakovich, and this movement is perhaps not one of his best. Finally, to finish the programme the quartet played the end of Schulhoff’s Five pieces for string quartet. This worked nicely, the piece acting as book-ends to the programme. The programme as a whole was concise and showcased some of the best qualities of string quartet music.


The presenter, Helen Woods, added a friendly element to the concert, further removing ideas of elitism that can very often be associated with classical music. A selection of audience participation games and jokes, some cheesier than others, attempted to keep the evening light and did so relatively successfully. These games included a drinking competition, an opportunity for a “selfie” with the quartet (topical) and trying to find someone in the audience with the same birthday as a composer on the programme. Particularly successful was the live remix of some Mozart. Each table was asked to role a die, the number of which determined what bar would be played and in what order, chosen from a 6 bar phrase of Mozart. The quartet then played this ‘remixed’ rendition according to what number bars had been arrived at from the dice throws.

When I initially considered a String Quartet playing in a more ‘modern’ setting I imagined that the programme would also reflect this decision, but almost all the repertoire was written over one hundred years ago. Perhaps introducing an unfamiliar audience to some contemporary works is something to consider for the next time.

If you fancy giving classical music a go without having to deal with the etiquette that can come from attending a performance at a concert hall, Quartet is for you. Even if you’re a regular concert goer, it makes a change to be able to listen to a talented ensemble with a beer in hand.

Photos by Kevin Pick

Welsh Music Foundation to suspend operations today

The Welsh Music Foundation (WMF), one of the organisations responsible for offering support to the music industry in Wales, will cease to operate today following a Welsh Government decision to end its financial support.

Until yesterday, the WMF was funded in a three year core funding agreement with the Welsh Government which saw them offer advice and financial help to record labels, publishers, studios, promoters and musicians as well as many more.

However, when that offer came to an end yesterday, a similar agreement was not offered to the WMF despite the board’s efforts to prove the worth of the organisation such as forming part of the group who delivered WOMEX – an event which had an economic impact of over £3M in Cardiff in 2013.

Welsh Government had offered a six month extension of the organisation’s funding to enable them to “secure an alternative income stream” but this option was deemed unviable by the board.

In a statement released this morning, the board of the Welsh Music Foundation said: “We are extremely proud of the value and leadership we have shown within the industry and how, on an extremely modest revenue grant of £160,000 a year, we have leveraged much more money in project value, served many Welsh music businesses and developed the music economy of Wales.”

The statement in full:

A Press Statement from the Welsh Music Foundation Board

It is with great sadness that as of today, Tuesday 1st July 2014, Welsh Music Foundation (WMF) is suspending the company’s operations.

WMF’s existing three-year core-funding agreement with Welsh Government expired yesterday, 30th June 2014. Despite our efforts over the past nine months to negotiate continued core-funding, the Welsh Government’s offer of a six month extension to enable the company to secure an alternative income stream whilst continuing to provide the core service was deemed by the Board an unviable proposal.

The Board therefore decided not to accept the offer of funding and to proceed to suspend the company’s operations and as a consequence all 3 members of staff will be made redundant.

As an executive and board, we are extremely proud of the value and leadership we have shown within the industry and how, on an extremely modest revenue grant of £160,000 a year, we have leveraged much more money in project value, served many Welsh music businesses and developed the music economy of Wales.

Over the past year we have:

  • Delivered the World Music Expo WOMEX to Wales, with through our partnership with Arts Council Wales / Wales Arts International (Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales) with an economic impact of £3,177,000 for Cardiff
  • Produced 36 bespoke training events across Wales in areas such as music copyright, royalties, radio play, live music promotion and festival organization.
  • Answered 1708 enquiries from the music industry in Wales
  • Launched a Wales music directory with serves 1705 music companies in Wales.
  • Delivered an international music presence for Welsh music companies in Womex and SXSW and explored new markets in Porto Musicale (Recife, Brazil) and PrimaveraPro (Barcelona, Spain)

WMF’s annual report, published for our AGM last week, and available to read below, outlines WMF’s benefit to and activities to develop Wales’ music industry over this past year.

It is highly regrettable to be closing our office and operations and we are extremely concerned for the hiatus in service to the music industry of Wales that this causes. However having carefully considered a number of options, and in the knowledge that there is no further commitment from Welsh Government to fund our service to the industry, it is the only responsible option currently available to us.

The Board of WMF remain committed and will seek new investment and partnerships to support the development of the music industry in Wales.
If you are working in the music sector in Wales and require support, or if you are looking to work with the music sector in Wales, then please contact Business Wales 03000 6 03000 or

The Annual report can be downloaded here.

Review: John Mouse – The Death of John Mouse

John Mouse Album

Football and music do not always go hand in hand. Or ball to hand if you are a certain mercurial Argentinian. Who could forget Fat Les’ primitive to the point of Neanderthal chants about curry? Subversive Rhondda Valleys singer/songwriter John MOuse’s fourth album, funded by his loyal cult following, kicks off with a bright and jerky guitar line that could easily be caught frolicking over a Football Focus montage.

Yet ‘I Was A Goalkeeper’ is anything but moronic. Featuring vocals by Gareth from Los Campesinos, it’s an immediate shot of adrenalized indie rock that is not entirely dissimilar to its guest’s regular band. It details MOuse’s fond memories of kick-about’s with a childhood friend and a revaluation of where their relationship stands now they have reached adulthood.

Reflections of growing up in a small isolated, close-knit community are a prominent theme in the record’s strongest asset, the lyrical content. John MOuse is a unique and immensely gifted writer. Perhaps this is unsurprising for an author who will be soon releasing a crowd funded novella.

The Death of… in one moment breaks your heart with a bittersweet lament of a past life and in the next cracks your ribs with a hilariously obscure popular culture reference. MOuse possesses a delightfully dark sense of humour and a keen eye for small descriptive detail that breathes life into his grippingly descriptive anecdotes.

Five of the eleven tracks are delivered as spoken word. It’s among these that the stand-out moments of the album lie. ‘Robbie Savage’ is a child’s account of witnessing his parents separate and re-marry set to a solemn piece of piano and building strings. Treading the line between hilarity and tragedy beautifully, it vividly captures a tale of youthful disaffection, including a garden burial of Baldrick the family pet Hamster and brushing off mum’s new beau in favour of a Simply Red CD played on a scratched Sony Walkman with low batteries.

The album is musically diverse, ranging from the volatile post- hardcore pummelling of Ilka Moor to the mellow croon of ‘That’s The Way Our Love Is’. Whilst there are a few more forgettable tracks, MOuse goal here is not to reinvent the wheel. It’s clear he is not a pretentious person. His songs are littered with self-depreciation. Just as things are seemingly turning a little mushy for ‘ballad’ closer ‘Once Upon a Time in Ynysmaerdy (Will I ever Queue again)’, a hilarious male-female duet deconstructs the conventions of an awkward restaurant set date, before erupting into a sing-along chorus and soaring horn section.

John MOuse has been described as the Welsh Beck and Kurt Wagner with sexual issues. However, to paraphrase a terrace anthem, there’s only one John MOuse.

Check back this week on Plastik for an interview with the man himself.

The Death of John Mouse is out on Crocfingers on July 14th and ‘I Was a Goalkeeper’ is out on iTunes on July 7th. You can see him as part of the Please Mind Your Head fundraiser at Clwb Ifor Bach on Sunday 6th July, along with Islet, Cymbient, Oh Peas, Rhodri Brooks and more.


Interview: Guillaume Morissette


Set in Montreal, Guillaume Morissette’s novel New Tab spans a year in the life of twenty-six year old videogame designer Thomas. It’s a story of self-reinvention, bilingualism, ambiguous relationships, and enormous shared utility bills.

ROR: My first language is Welsh, but I’ve only ever written creatively in English, which I guess parallels your French/English situation. For me, I feel like I probably will want to write in Welsh at some point, but I maybe get the impression that writing in French isn’t even slightly something you’re considering at the moment?

GM: It’s just a pragmatic thing. Switching to English as my primary language and being friends with people from the Anglophone community in Montreal just felt like a fresh start to me, like a clean slate and a convenient way for me to reinvent myself and reset my identity and stuff. I also felt like writing in English instead of French had interesting advantages, like being able to reach a bigger audience online etc. I don’t know if I’ll ever write a thing in French, but it’s not impossible. I feel like it would have to be something I can only express in French.

I think I feel the same as you in that writing in a second language does give a sense of otherness/a unique perspective. I recently read Burrard Inlet by Tyler Keevil (who I think is roughly your age); I enjoyed that too, but it’s a very different Canada he’s writing about and stylistically it’s very different to New Tab. Do you read much Canadian literature?   

GM: I read a few things, but I also find it hard to relate to a lot of stuff from Canadian literature, probably because I don’t have the same influences or sensibilities or something. There this line in the Wikipedia entry for “Canadian literature” that goes something like, “Canada’s literature often reflects the Canadian perspective on nature, frontier life and Canada’s position in the world.” I remember reading that and just thinking, like, “Shit, I am totally doing it wrong.”

How early on did you become aware of alt lit? Which writers did you read/engage with first?

Pretty early. I got into contemporary literature in maybe 2009, and found a lot of stuff I liked just by reading HTMLGiant and other places. It honestly feels like those websites gave me a better literary education than my literary education. In late 2010, I began connecting with writers on social media and randomly added Steve Roggenbuck and other future “alt lit” people. In the summer of 2011, I travelled from Montreal to New York and did a reading with Steve, Spencer Madsen, Mike Bushnell and other internet writers. It felt like this weird inversion, like my internet life had become my real life and my real life had become my internet life. I’ve continued growing my online presence and maturing/evolving as a writer since, and I feel like I’ll probably continue pushing in that direction until it stops making my life interesting to me.

I really enjoyed the video game related stuff in New Tab. So, what’s your all time favourite computer/video game?

GM: Damn, hard to say. There are tons of games that I remember really liking, but I also feel like I would view them in a completely different way if I were to play them now. Growing up, I was really into games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Earthbound, Secret of Evermore or Uniracers. I liked role-playing games and games that had a witty script or were actually funny. The one game that dominated my imagination the most as a kid, I think, was this semi-obscure Japanese role-playing videogame called Ogre Battle. It had a linear plot that accounted for your decisions and gave you a lot of freedom to play whatever style you preferred, including good or evil. It was difficult, mysterious, at times morally ambiguous and very insane. I still experience flashbacks of that game from time to time, like, “Remember that time you got stranded in that s****y village on the far end of the map, that was good.”

My ideal game might be a multiplayer where everyone ignores each other for the most part. I really enjoyed the section in the novel where you talk about subverting Call of Duty; I’ve sometimes done similar stuff when playing online, like wounding rather than killing people and telling them this is their second chance to live a better life or whatever.

GM: There are times where writing and writers just feels like a big online multiplayer shooter to me. Like writers are jealous of other writers who they view as having more success than them, so their instinct tells them to s**t-talk other people or something, but I am really starting to feel like it’s kind of delusional to think you’re in some sort of ranked deathmatch with other writers. It seems so much more interesting to do the opposite, to try to be kind to other writers and support them. The thing is that literature is sometimes contagious, in that when you find a novel or a book you really like, you usually end up craving more stuff to read that feels equally pleasurable. So if someone else’s book is pleasurable and ends up getting people excited about books and wanting more, that’s not a bad thing for me, in that there are now more people interested in literature overall, I guess.

Guillaume Morissette’s novel New Tab (Vehicule Press) is available now @anxietyissue

Richard Owain Roberts’ short story collection All The Places We Lived (Parthian Books) will be available in March 2015 / @RichOwainRobs