Review of Cwtch

Oliver Arditi: News and reviews

Cwtch – Beyond Transgression
Self released, 2011, DD EP, 26m 10s
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"I’m not sure what Marie Craven is sorry about. Without overcoming my innate laziness and conducting a proper analysis of the lyrics, it’s hard to say whether she’s expressing regret, making an apology, or meditating on the nature of transgression. In fact the title is a little ambiguous itself: does it refer to a transcendence of the terms of transgression, or a violation of surpassing seriousness? Either way, bracketing this release with two versions of its title track makes her mournful declaration a key aspect of its meaning, and the structural linchpin of its narrative arc.

And irrespective of all that, let’s be clear: with this EP, she and collaborator Paul Foster have nothing to apologise for. Craven’s undramatic but deeply expressive vocals have a rich physicality that comes both from technique and experience; they are perfectly adapted to the cool, liquid electronic soundscapes of Foster’s production methods. Textures are built up from layers of synth pads and sequences, using sounds that consistently favour the warm and soft over the harsh or distorted, but have been carefully, creatively tweaked in detail, to give them a subtle, very human glitchiness.

‘Beyond Transgression’ has a moderately heavy drum part, and ‘Unhaiku’ (for example) develops a breakbeat after its extended mellow intro, but in neither case does it come off sounding like dance music. You could certainly dance to much of this, and through a big system some of these tracks would be irresistible, but for me the meanings of this music are in its atmospheres, and with its central focus on regret, there is a strong sense of sadness. That it stops short of tragedy is largely down to the optimistic onrush of its beats, that tell us there is a future, and it’s not to be feared. This is a beautiful piece of work."