The spectacular Swn Festival took over Cardiff for much of the weekend just gone, and while I didn't see as many bands as I might have liked to, I still caught a few gems that I thought would be worth sharing. So, just as I did after returning from the Knee Deep Festival, I present four of my favourite acts from Swn 2013:
The Wytches actually played at Knee Deep, too. They were on the main stage as we arrived, and while they did sound pretty great, I sadly had to go and set up camp. Still, I later managed to establish the name of the band I had heard, and I swore that, sooner or later, I would get around to having a proper listen.
And so, when I spotted that The Wytches were down to play Clwb Ifor Bach on Swn Saturday, I cleared my schedule. They were absolutely awesome, too, with meaty basslines, Halloween surfer guitar sounds (a bit like The Cramps or The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster), and a vocal style that probably isn't especially good for the singer's throat. The recordings don't do them justice; by all means listen to the song I've embedded above, but see them live if you can.
Seazoo were my last band of the festival, and not a bad one to go out on. Their music occasionally strays a little close to the nose-wrinkling tweeness I complained about in my Sweet Baboo review, but the underlying chug and Seazoo's knack for a big, Hold Steady-style guitar riff injected just the right amount of attitude to balance the sweetness. In contrast to The Wytches, they're even better on record, where you can hear all of those lovely layers properly.
I didn't see all of ESKA's set, and that's a great shame because what I did catch was something special. The lady's voice covers considerably more notes than would comfortably fit on a stave, and her all-trades talent - each of the three songs I heard was played on a different instrument - makes it hard to lose interest. Her songs are soul-cleansing things, filling your ears with a cathartic wail that's really rather astonishing. It's far from easy listening, but the loose structuring and near-religious fervour that typified those few songs made for a seriously electrifying experience. It reminded me of Josh T. Pearson a little bit, but then everything reminds me of Josh T. Pearson.
My final pick is nowhere to be found on SoundCloud, and I couldn't see anything of theirs on YouTube, either, so above is a link to their EP on Bandcamp instead. Without Feathers were billed as being a bit like The Moldy Peaches, but they're far more polite than that, peddling sweet little songs and three-part harmonies that remind me of The Roches as much as anything. I liked the round they sang - you don't hear many rounds nowadays - but my favourite songs were those on which the girl in the awesome coat did most of the singing (not sure of the name, sorry; she's in the centre of the photo below). She had a little more spunk when she was singing lead rather than backing vocals, and the slightly more punky moments contrasted well with the softer stuff.
Did you go to Swn this year? Who did you see?