Band Cymreig yw Yucatan, a sefydlwyd yn 2005. Cafodd albwm cyntaf y band ei gynhyrchu yn stiwdio Sigur Rós yn Reykjavik, Gwlad yr Iâ. Gwahoddwyd hwy yno wedi i Dilwyn Llwyd gyfarfod â nhw yng Nghatalonia.
Language barriers aside, Yucatan deliver on all levels here and although you may not be able to understand what they are singing about that’s not the point. Such is the lilt of the welsh language, it chimes along and seeps into your consciousness much like Sigur Ros do with their language. Only this time the language is real and by that reckoning, packs a much bigger emotional punch.
As for the music, from the opening strands of ‘Ffin’ to the final moments of ‘Uwch Gopa’r Mynydd’ all life is here. The epic ‘Cwm Llwm’ stirs emotions deep inside you whilst ‘Llyn Tawelwch’ threatens to make you cry. There are several moments too, where time seems to stand still and the music transcends your very soul leaving you a gibbering wreck. It’s beauty of the highest order, a beauty that doesn’t arrive very often. A beauty which the Welsh seem to hold so near to their hearts when it comes to music.
And it’s the Welshness that makes this album what it is. You can almost picture the sweeping hillsides leading up to Snowdonia and the valleys beyond where slate quarries lie abandoned only to see life as a tourist trade. It evokes the lost sense of belonging which can only be found on a St David’s Day parade or when the rugby team breathes it’s dragons fire. It also evokes the home-spun tales of the Mabinogian and other folk tales which make the culture so enduring. To a Welshman it will raise tears of understanding, to others a cry of joy at the music it can produce.
This album is pretty untouchable and is pretty damn near perfect in it’s delivery. Not a moment goes by where a note is wasted or you feel the need to do something else. It transfixes and holds you in its grasp until it’s very end then begs you to play it again and discover other delights. They may very well be the Welsh answer to Sigur Ros but they are also so much more. Who knows what goes through the minds of these musicians when they reach yet another mini crescendo on this fabulous journey. Yucatan may be the most essential band on the planet at this very moment.
The album opens with ‘Ffin’ (which translates roughly as border or frontier), with its thudding drumbeat and quivering violin/cello in background. Things are lushly understated until halfway point, when big guitars enter the fray and things get a little more bombastic. ‘Cwm Llwm’ (‘Bleak Valley’) is a patient build, its soft guitars and vocals undergoing a gradual increase in intensity, eventually joined by an insistent, anticipative drumbeat and mournful strings, the eventual payoff arriving as everything marries together and drums come crashing down. The track also has a piano-led cooling off period, ending in atmospherics that sound like ghosts real or imagined on misty a hillside. This is followed by the only English-language song on the album, ‘Word Song’, which begins with gentle icy tinkles before blossoming with lush arrangements and cooing background vocals. Next up is ‘Halen Daear a Sŵn y Môr’ (‘Ground Salt and the Sound of the Sea’ – I think!), another shimmering slice of panoramic beauty.
‘Ochenaid’ (‘Sigh’) continues in the ethereal majesty with glacial vocals and strings, minimal electric guitar and thumping The National-style drums, while ‘Llyn Tawelwch’ (‘Peace Lake’) opens with sparse instrumentation, the vocals taking centre stage, building and building to a finale which swoops and soars over snowy peaks. Lead single ‘Angharad’ twinkles and floats before a pounding, cymbal-heavy climax. The title track closes up in suitably resplendent fashion, its triumphant horn-led final third finishing things with a celebratory air.