It’s an exciting few weeks for Welsh music with eagerly awaited debut albums from Estrons and Adwaith arriving October 5thand 12th respectively. However, kicking off a tremendous trifecta is the latest from The Joy Formidable. Fourth album Aaarth follows 2016’s Hitch and came together in the band’s mobile recording studios. While traversing the globe from the Welsh valleys to singer Ritzy Bryan’s adoptive home of Utah, the record they created is a psychedelic Cerberus. Simultaneously screaming against a society increasingly untethered from compassion, while dancing to forget and delivering a spiritual rebirth. On the recording of Aaarth, Bryan says:
“We’ve definitely made a colorful, mystical collage with this record, partly because of our surroundings. Those multi-colored sunsets & the primeval elements of nature in the Southwest – it’s emboldened our imaginations in the songwriting and the production. I love stories and seeing symbolism and meaning change with different cultures and interpretations. I see it in my lyrics, a lot of the imagery plays on being ambivalent because I’m often expressing a lot of things at once. That’s true of the title; it falls somewhere between a scream, an exaltation, a play on words, and then this motif of the bear (“arth” in Welsh) that spiritually represents strength, wisdom & healing.”
Right from the off with Y Bluen Eira has you running an aural gauntlet, as vocal snatches and fuzz guitars stalk you. Gathering pace to a menacing crescendo. Single On The Wrong Side however, soars with uplifting vocals while synths and guitars bend around you. While piano drops over power chords like a desert rain on Go Loving
Circadia (Land on Your Back) has an Eastern feel, with Bryans voice charming the rising, snake like guitars before the sonic tour de force of All in All. It evolves from a glockenspiel ballad until a simple guitar motif transports you to a choral, fuzzed out climax. What For is one of the more straight up rockers on the record but The Better Me shakes off any ideas of convention and bristles with unlikely hooks. Dance of The Lotus crashes around you while synths lurch and dive, letting up only to allow the air for Bryan’s vocal to ascend. You Can’t Give Me returns gives a brief moment of conventional structure before ensnaring the listener into a sonic eddy.
A funk bassline beckons in the half spoken vocal on Caught on a Breeze to see out this powerhouse of a record. Aaarth an album that’s bursting with driving riffs and melodic shifts. Its layers swirl around you, transporting you to an almost transcendental place. Ritzy Bryan says:
“With life not always being that kind, you can either go down a really dark hole or you can smear yourself with color and reverie and try to forget. That’s what we did with AAARTH; we threw ourselves into this beautiful vivacious collage of experimentation, real meets unreal, and stopped giving a fuck about things that didn’t matter, and started caring more about the things that are worth your time.”
The Joy Formidable shortly begin a headline tour of The US together with support slots for The Foo Fighters at the personal behest of Dave Grohl. If this record doesn’t get you to a venue nearby, maybe you’re already lost…