Wednesday, 20 February 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, “Yn Ol I Annwn”

By: Andrew Field

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 01/03/2019
Label: New Heavy Sounds

“Yn Ol I Annwn” is a brave, exhilarating and sumptuous record.

“Yn Ol I Annwn” CD//DD//2LP track listing:

1. Tralfamadore
2. The Spaceships Of Ezekiel
3. Fata Morgana
4. Du Bist Jetzt Nicht In Der Zukunft
5. Yn Ol I Annwn
6. Katyusha
7. The Majestic Clockwork
8. Five Days In The Abyss

The Review: 

You have to admire Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s work rate. Three albums and a split in as many years, with no drop in quality. Quite the opposite in fact. The Wrexham quintet have upped their game once again with this new record. And trust me when I tell you “Yn Ol I Annwn” is a real doozy.

If “Noeth Ac Anoeth” laid the foundations of the MWWB sound, 2017’s “Y Proffwyd Dwyll” realised their potential. It was the sound of a band hitting its stride and finding a creative pulse. The double whammy of “Valmasque” and the title track were a crowning achievement. They sounded like the bastard offspring of a four way one-night stand between Kyuss, My Bloody Valentine, Hawkwind (when Lemmy was in it) and Lush. It became my album of that year with some ease.

After the intriguing 2018 “Totems” split with Slomatics, on which the development of the MWWB sound continued apace, we finally arrive at the third part of the band’s trilogy. Unlike the first two parts, which revealed their charms immediately, “Yn Ol I Annwn” takes a few listens to fully put you under its spell. But once you’re familiar with the hooks and riffs their allure is strong. Be warned.

“Yn Ol I Annwn” is akin to your favourite car after it’s been in for a service. Everything is tighter, a little more fluid, and altogether perkier than before. The underlying dynamism is still there, but it’s brighter and more sparkly now. This extends across the gamut of MWWB’s appealing traits. Jessica Ball’s growing confidence in her voice is apparent from the off: whilst her delivery is still ethereal and floats above the rampant musical melee underneath, she’s higher in the mix now – alternating between moments of fragility and more forceful intonation. Dave and Wes’s guitars still churn and thunder, but there’s a more focused tightness in their work. The album’s true hero is drummer James “Carrat” Carrington, to these ears an underrated master of the skins. The insistent forward motion he creates for his band, rolling and undulating around his kit, is the lifeblood of MWWB and truly hypnotic.

Since Jess Ball left her bass behind and focused on keyboards they’ve played an ever-larger part in the band’s sound.  On this 3rd full-length record those keys find more room within the quintet’s widescreen musical offering: from swishing whizzes to Floydian stabs, pulsing and wooshing, firmly in space rock territory and at times even further into places Tangerine Dream and Krautrock pioneers like Klaus Schulze used to call home. Opening track “Tralfamadore” is such an odyssey, John Carpenter-esque retro-wave electronica par excellence. 

The progression doesn’t just lay here though, and indeed the most vital and exciting cuts on the album are where the band experiment: the cello-led “Du Bist Jetzt Nicht In Der Zukunft” and stomping “The Majestic Clockwork” being particularly wonderful and life-affirming examples.  The undoubted highlight of the record is “Spaceships Of Ezekiel” – a big number, perhaps their finest composition so far – on which everything the quintet has been working towards comes together in one fantastic blast. From its full tilt Iommi-worshipping opening riff, through a verse of pure infectious groove and swagger over which Ball sings like an angel, to the widescreen and panoramic Moog-led stormer of a closing passage which gives this listener the goosebumps.

This evolution of MWWB’s sound on the songs I mention above is thrilling. The only downside of that for this reviewer is that a couple of the numbers on “Yn Ol I Annwn”, which hark back to the less evolved sound of their earlier albums, are a touch pedestrian in comparison. For instance, 13-minute instrumental “Katyusha” is decent enough but doesn’t go anywhere the band haven’t been before with similar pieces “Naxthexen” or “Gallego”. But when there’s material as strong and vital as album closer “Five Days In The Abyss” on display you can forgive them the odd lapse into familiarity here and there.  Kudos to Chris Fielding for immaculately capturing every nuance and moment, and for mixing it to a tee (and to James Plotkin for the brutally heavy mastering job). It’s the best sounding album of MWWB’s career thus far.

“Yn Ol I Annwn” is undoubtedly a transitional album. The end of the trilogy, the closing of chapter one, laying the foundations for where this amazing band go next. Based on the creativity, vim and sheer sonic turbulence inherent on this record you are likely to be left properly excited about where Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard go from here. Wherever that might be I’m definitely along for the ride.

A brave, exhilarating and sumptuous record.

“Yn Ol I Annwn” is available HERE

Band info: facebook || bandcamp