At the home of the foremost user of the English language, Shakespeare’s Globe complex, there was some Welsh for a change, and even a bit of Cornish. Cardiff’s Gwenno Saunders, the daughter of a Welsh speaking mother and a Cornish speaking father, herself a former member of polka-dottted girl group revivalists The Pipettes, is behind an unlikely musical success story: Y Dydd Olaf (“The Final Day”), a concept album inspired by an obscure Seventies dystopian sci-fi novel by former scientist Owain Owain, in which the protagonist writes in Welsh because his robot overlords can’t understand it. It won the Welsh Music Prize and is the finest example of a new wave of Welsh language albums.
There was a retro-futurist gleam to songs such as Sysial Y Mor and Chwyldro, with their metronomic beats and analogue synths. Coupled with Saunders’ soft voice, which sounded even more blurred for the majority who couldn’t understand the lyrics, it was far prettier than introductions such as “It’s 2016 but unfortunately I have to start with a song about patriarchy,” would imply.
Joined by bassist Rhys Edwards, who also produced her album, and a cellist feeding his sound through a bank of efffects pedals, she triggered the electronic elements from a table snaking with wires. It was a bold sound for a venue that looked more appropriate for lute music, and after just seven songs it was over too quickly. After urging her audience to sign an online petition to restore government funding for the Cornish language, she had gone to speak her mother, and father, tongues elsewhere.