Tŷ Ein Tadau (Our Fathers’ House) is the stunning debut album from Welsh chamber-folk trio Vrï. First off, it’s blindingly obvious how great these guys (Aneirin Jones, Jordan Price Williams, Patrick Rimes) are together. They play off each other wonderfully well, with superb control of dynamics and nuance, excelling in subtle mood shifts, in delicate washes of light and shade. But more layers to this musical millefeuille lie in Vrï’s high-minded intent.
Vrï have attempted a respectful untangling of the complex role of Methodism in Welsh society leading to either the suppression of folk traditions and tunes or of their appropriation into the hymnal (per the tendency of any establishment to absorb perceived threats). Vrï seek to tease out and restore some tunes to their traditional roots, without undermining the importance of “chapel” in Wales’s social history. Reads like a PhD proposal: sounds like a dream.
The album opens with the mournful cello of ‘Dewch I’r Frwydr’ and a melody which glances off Dvořák’s New World Symphony. There’s darkness, too, in the exquisitely sad ‘Tôn Fechan Meifod’, with that same bleak bucolicism as Howard Shore’s Lord Of The Rings post-war “Shire” music.
‘Breow Kernow’ marries ‘Mount Hill’ with a lively Cornish ‘five-step’ whilst the the skipping, slurring jig triple set of ‘Cyw Bach’ melds short, firm bow strokes with big rounded percussion. ‘Taflu Rwdins’ weaves an agile polka into an epic vocalised chorus, in contrast with the clean, sedately classical lines of ‘Crug Y Bar’.
Beth Celyn lends her rich, round and soaring vocals to ‘Cob Malltraeth’ over strings which, starting as a gentle, long-bowed flow, acquire a nagging insistence. The other songs feature the voices of the band members and range from the sean-nós of ‘Aros Mae’r Mynyddau Mawr’ to ‘Ffoles Llantrisant’ presented like a hypnotic round. If ‘Clychau Aberdyfi’ strikes more oddly on the ears, it may not be down to the chiming bell rhythm, but rather to the suddenly harsh-sounding and intrusive English.
Final track, ‘Gŵr a’i Farch’ brings all the band’s elements together, kicking off with an unusual time signature hornpipe, working together folk and classical textures with great power and sensitivity.
So there’s something rather cerebral in their approach, yet their music absolutely glows with energy and life. This album reaches the head, the heart and the feet all at once – just take a listen.
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Artist website: www.vri.cymru
Vrï live at Llantrisant folk club: