March sets off in splendid style with the cracking second album from Gwenno, Le Kov. A sparkling and highly original record, sung entirely in Cornish, a language which now has less than a thousand living speakers one of whom is the artist herself. Just this fact alone would make it worthy of attention, the added bonus being that it's also an incredibly distinguished and accessible album, despite the fact that the listener may not have the slightest idea what is actually being sung about, (translations are available and have been discussed in reviews), make it even more praiseworthy.
Gwenno, (Saunders), previously in Pipettes, has been putting out records for a number of years but Le Kov is definitely a step into a new space, even from her fine solo debut Y Dydd Olaf, released in 2015. That was sung in Welsh, Saunders was brought up by a Cornish speaking father and Welsh speaking mother. Le Kov, (which translates as Place of Memory) is a defiant and determined sounding record, touching on Brexit, displacement and struggle to express identity in an increasingly uniform and often oppressive mainstream culture. But there's still much opposition and resistance. evident in the margins as this album attests
In terms of its musical palette the record melds Krautrock, Folk, artists like Stereolab, Broadcast, Super Furry Animals and Serge Gainsbourg into fascinating, captured woven textures that are the stuff of dream. Cornish is such an evocative, mythic sounding language that the sense of spell that results from all this is quite captivating, and can't help but mind me of the rich and ancient historical and cultural legacy of Arthurian legend.
What I find particularly admirable about Le Kov is its pure power as artistic statement in a historical and political moment when we are most in need of them. Just singing in this dying language (sadly a conclusion that must be drawn), Gwenno potentially limits the audience for a record that in terms of its sound is more accessible to a greater audience than the one it might actually reach, but is determined to stick to its own resolve, and that determination should be respected. So a record that could easily take the path of Jane Weaver's highly successful and lauded Modern Kosmology which featured highly in virtually every end of year chart in 2017 probably won't, because of its own unshakeable principle.
Le Kov may not ultimately achieve such success and acclaim in 2018 as Modern Kosmology did last year but this would be a shame because its an equally, and possibly (based on my initial listenings to it), an even more accomplished record. Myth, memory and melody come together to conjure up what will surely be one of my very favourite albums of this year.