On a recent trip to Berlin, I was gently nagged by a feeling that I couldn’t quite give shape to. As with every other trip to the German capital, I was loving it, but unable to explain why. After about twenty-four hours, it suddenly hit me. It was the prevailing atmosphere on the streets, which I can only describe as one of almost preternatural patience.
That’s not to say that Berlin lacks edge – far from it, as anyone who has spent more than an hour there can testify. That though does not seem to break the spell, and the more I thought about it, the more I recognised a similar sensation from other cities I’d visited: Copenhagen, Århus, Helsinki, Amsterdam, Tilburg, Hamburg, Duisburg, Lübeck, Antwerp and others.
It would be impossible to put any substantial British city on the same list.
‘Wazoo’, the first song on Kid McCoy, the new Threatmantics album, starts with a beat which incongruously segues into a viola drone followed by a guitar sound in the style of Link Wray (the genius who wrote, among other things, the Batman TV theme tune). The vocals of Heddwyn Davies and Taliesyn Källström jar with each other, and sound like they’re calling to each other from far apart. The vocals are melodic, but aren’t allowed to dominate the songs – it’s the instruments that do that – leading while the voices support. The balance between the voices works beautifully, with unusual harmonies – no simple ‘girl sings high, boy sings low’ formula. They flick-flack between Welsh and English as they always have, with witty, sharp lyrics – no explanation for the code-switching offered or needed.
2013 was an exciting year for new writing in Welsh theatre. This was no flash-in-the-pan phenomenon. There has been a gradual blossoming of new writing over the past couple of years. Without doubt the Cardiff-based new writing theatre company Dirty Protest has played a leading part in the excitement and buzz. This unconventional and uncompromising company, set up in 2007, has worked with over a hundred new and established writers. The company attracts sell-out crowds on a regular basis in alternative venues: pubs and clubs, yurts and yards, a kebab shop, bus shelter and a forest to name just a few.
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