Prog pop Celtic madness from Richard Dawson-featuring band.
Originally the avant improvisational project of anti-folk man of the moment Richard Dawson and maverick harpist Rhodri Davies, Hen Ogledd (Welsh for ‘The Old North’) have expanded on third album Mogic by becoming a quartet, with Sally Pilkington joining Dawn Bothwell on keys and vocals. That title is apposite too, because much of this album sounds like a collision between magic and logic, where songs that don’t initially sound serious can morph into sinister, sci-fi inflected fables for our time. Wonkiness is everywhere, but contrasted with moments of strange beauty: the artless singing and skittering guitar of Sky Burial flower into a wonderful vocoder chorus; Gwae Reged O Heddiw is a Welsh poem being taught to and repeated by a child over an enviro-ambient backing. Elsewhere, First Date is a creepy ballad played by a robot, while the insectoid techno of Transport & Travel soundtracks a Caledonian acid trip. But ace in the pack here is the post-punk prog pop perfection of Problem Child, Dawson’s propulsive bass and near falsetto vocal driving what is surely one of the year’s must-hear tracks. Not always the easiest of listens, Mogic is a playful yet disquieting album.