“Seance-psych” group, Wermod, are this month’s ‘band to watch.’ Hailing from Wales, the band consists of Gwenfair Machlyd – voice and theremin, Dulcie Midwinter – flute, Israel Watcyn – electronic realisation/tone generator, and Mihangel Meredyth on drums.
The origins of Wermod (Welsh for wormwood) are blurred, slightly vague, and a little bit confusing; they seem to have fallen through a 70’s time blip and landed with a bump in 21st century Wales. According to “O Wraidd Wermod,” a paper pamphlet sent to MOOF, half in Welsh and half in English, Wermod’s beginnings can be traced back to 1975, when they apparently played in a local church which had been used as a studio, with a theremin, oscillators and ring modulators on their set, the unconventional and alien music equipment confused local Cae Creigog folk, and rumours spread that amidst Wermod was a German spy…after being shunned from the church and having all of their recording equipment chucked out by unhappy locals, Gwenfair Machlyd set up the equipment in a derelict shed nearby, but soon after vanished without a trace…
If it couldn’t get any more confusing, the band we hear today are not the Wermod from the 70’s, but a group dedicated to carrying on the legacy of Wermod. It’s a head-scratcher for sure, a curious band with a curious story, and an even curiouser sound. Besmirched in folk-horror and hauntology, their music isn’t like anything you’ve heard before, “seance-psych” is the best word for it; whilst heavily electronic, there is, ironically, an esoteric ancient sound about it…a kind of welsh-language folkloric cantillation, viewed through a twenty-first century lens. A bit of a ‘marmite band’ the unnerving and chilling hauntological sound of Wermod is not to everybody’s taste, with tracks such as “Chwyrlibwgan“, “Fan Hyn Fan Draw“, and many others worthy of being described simply as a bad trip, a good thing in my eyes, and probably the eyes of other hauntology or horror enthusiasts, but it’s not for the fainthearted or easily disturbed. It’s the mystery and eeriness surrounding Wermod that makes them so appealing, whether there’s any truth to their story or not it doesn’t matter, that ambiguity only makes their work evermore unique and enchanting…
Check out their Soundcloud here:
MOOF also asked Wermod a few questions…
MOOF: Wermod have mentioned they are influenced by Illuminations – Buffy Sainte-Marie. What other albums/artists have influenced the band?
Wermod: In regards to artists that have influenced the Wermod sound. There is no particular style or band. We certainly gravitate to music that was created between 1961 -1975 but we are not particularly precious about it. It just represents a time when all kinds of music was thrown against the wall and see what stuck. It may be down to the happy accident or see what sticks style of music making at the time but anything that showed complete disregard to a “safe sound” is welcomed on our turntable. Beyond the record rundown we have contributed to MOOF (an absolute pleasure I might add) we like anti-Franco musicians who released on the French record label, Le Chant Du Monde. Elisa Serna – Quejido released in 1973 immediately comes to mind, it’s a lovely rough sounding LP that circumnavigates the same kind of vibe that Comus – First Utterance takes you, and goes in a far freakier direction. We also like lo-fi Welsh girl-pop that was released on Welsh labels such as Sain, Wren and Tryfan. Y Diliau from mid Wales are a favourite although there are many gems to enjoy and the “one take” feel only adds to the urgency and charm.
In regards to one album that melds everything that we at Wermod hold dear, United States of America, the one shot album that was masterminded by Joseph Byrd will always be a point of reference to us. We have , over the years rummaged through many a record box to find contributions made by Byrd and Co to other artists and are always surprised where they turn up ( I’m sure that will make a great article.)
MOOF: Welsh identity seems important to the band. Can you sum up what ‘being Welsh’ means to you?
Wermod: To answer this simply. We are Welsh. Some of us were born in Wales, some have learnt Welsh through the primary and secondary education and others have learnt Welsh in later life. We live in a part of Wales where Welsh is spoken on a daily basis, its just natural for us to sing in Welsh as it is to speak or write.
MOOF: Have any of you ever done a seance / had a spiritual experience / seen a ghost?
Wermod: The musical seance Wermod participate in consists of swallowing sheep teeth that have been submerged in a specific bog in Cae Creigiog. At the point of decomposition , the hallucinogenic qualities are acquired for the ritual. Once ingested, it takes us into a semi conscious state that we can play the music of the Wermod master tapes. This, I suppose is a spiritual experience of sorts.
MOOF: The music of Wermod has a rural eeriness about it – could be described as ‘folk-horror’ – is there any folklore local to you that has inspired the band or is worth a mention?
Wermod: In regards to folk horror, many films we hold dear were filmed near were the majority of us grew up. Films like Michael Man’s The Keep (1983) and Dragon Slayer (a live action Disney film that predates the Game of Thrones aesthetic) used locations that we would go walking and the reminiscence of the sets are still there. The opening shots of The Keep use discarded slate mines as the Carpathian pass where The Keep is found, around it is a village that looks like something out of the 1970’s Czechoslovakian surreal horror film, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders…Eeriness on your back door.
MOOF: What is it about hauntology that appeals to you?
Wermod: The half remembered past is a point of appeal. A fact that a recollection can manifest into something entirely different because the memory deteriorates or is recreated.
MOOF: What are some current bands you’d recommend to people who are a fan of Wermod’s sound?
Wermod: In regards to contemporary Welsh language bands that Wermod enjoy jiving to, we highly recommend CaStLeS from Snowdonia, as well as the Denbighshire based bands R. Seiliog and Anelog. All are informed by the Kosmische music aesthetic, and put on a great show. From a folk point of view the band Bendith, which features musicians Plu and Colorama, is also a wonderful listening experience .
Further a field we enjoy the noises that a French band called Gloria are making. Their 2016 album Gloria In Excelsis Stereo (that came out on a snapped up quickly vinyl edition late last year) has been an absolute joy to listen to. We have also been enthralled by Vanishing Twin, a veritable who’s who of forward thinking but past rooted musicians that are produced by the great Malcolm Catto. Trappist Afterland, the Australian troubadour who releases his mind boggling acoustic psychedellic folk albums via Sunstone Records ( a label we really rate.) Israel Watcyn was lucky enough to catch up with Adam from Trappist when he played an intimate gig in Chester. We bonded instantly over our mutual love of Meic Stevens and Sandy Bull.
Wermod will be playing with Neutral Zone, CaStles and Loka at Neuadd Ogwen in Bethesda on the 7th of November
‘Fan Hyn Fan Draw’ will be released on vinyl via Sunstone Records in the upcoming months…
Photos taken by Elsa Midwinter, Emberwood Creative
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