The Welsh have done psychedelic folk pretty well for a long time now. Perhaps it’s something to do with the vast country-side, and the likelihood that there are plenty of mushrooms growing out there, if you catch my drift. Back when laddish Britpop was thrust in our faces, the outskirts of the scene were awash with the more progressive and forward-thinking, and Wales was placed firmly on the map in this respect by the likes of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Super Furry Animals.
Fast forward to the present and Cate le Bon and her entourage are carrying the torch that the aforementioned lit fifteen or so years ago. Commencing the night is Cate’s guitarist playing a solo set under the moniker ‘H.Hawkline’. The unorthodox and lo-fi production of H. Hawkline’s recorded work is traded in for a much cleaner sounding affair tonight. He begins his set with only a reverberated electric guitar, sluggishly strumming familiar chord patterns as adolescent lyrics are bandied about from song to song. It’s all a little uninspiring until Cate le Bon and one other sneak on stage to help finish Black Muck; Cate picking up the drum sticks and her friend taking to the bass guitar. From here, things are taken up a notch; “This wasn’t planned, I shit you not” smirks Hawkline. Still a world away from his albums, there is a refreshing punk energy that settles somewhere between The Kinks and Graham Coxon for the remainder of the set. Hells Bells is as lavish as the title suggests; thumping drums, Hives-esque spiky guitars and guttural vocals before stopping completely dead, while Ghouls shows off Hawkline’s ear for a good melody without losing any of the raw ideals that his work harvests.
There is a sense of anticipation as Cate le Bon takes to the stage, stockpiled from previous appearances in Sheffield. She begins the set with the dark and deranged Julia, before playing set highlight Fold the Cloth; Cate’s otherworldly haunting and thick Welsh-accented vocals skirt around distorted organs and cycling chords. It is clear throughout the night that the famed Velvet Underground comparisons are much closer to the truth than the Laura Marling comparisons as Cate showcases the dark side of folk. Her songs seem to defy time period; they sound simultaneously nostalgic and contemporary as is evident on the mythical Seaside. “If he leaves I will surely die” she romanticises as the song unwearyingly unfolds into a tempo-changing upbeat finale. New single Put Me to Work is as comforting and jaunty as on record, while Falcon Eyed is as ferocious as it is merry. Cate leaves the stage before returning humbly to play the off-kilter and off-beat Camelo alone on the synthesiser, and a boisterous cover of The Hamsters’ Ole Spain, before hopping off stage to the sound of blissful applause from her adoring fans and, I suspect, a few new ones too