Emma Schofield listens to the new Welsh language album Sŵnamii, from the band Sŵnami.
There’s something about Sŵnami’s music which always makes me think of summer. Perhaps it’s the synth, or the slightly dream-like undertones; either way, it’s the kind of sound that makes me want to sit back, close my eyes and just follow the music.
Following the music seems to have been exactly what Sŵnami have been doing in the time between their debut album and this one. The band formed in 2011, but really came to prominence in 2016 when they won the Welsh Language Album of the Year Prize at the National Eisteddfod for their self-titled album, Sŵnami. The band, made up of Ifan Davies (vocals/guitar), Ifan Ywain (guitar), Gruff Jones (synthesisers), Gerwyn Murray (bass), and Lewis Williams (drums) have clearly been busy, having spent the past few years broadening their audience base and developing their music. Now they’re back with a follow-up album and a subtle shift in direction.
Reflecting on the process of creating the album, lead singer Ifan Davies has described the album as “very much a mixed bag”, which is “ less rock and… more ‘running up that hill’-style synths!”. He’s not wrong. In many respects, this is by far the most eclectic offering to date from the band, but it’s also the most mature. There is a real depth of emotion in some of these songs. The band recently released ‘Paradis Disparu’, a song which was written as part of the process of coming to terms with the grief of losing a loved one during one of the Covid-19 lockdowns, and it’s a standout from Sŵnamii. Emotional without being maudlin, it’s a reminder of the pain of loss and the way grief never entirely leaves us.
That difficulty of moving on resurfaces throughout the album, as does the idea of nostalgia and change being inevitable features of life. The concept behind the album evolves around the idea that every song is “a hotel room, each reflecting different stories at different points in our lives”. Gruff Jones describes it as containing “some nostalgia, some breakdowns but it still all feels like Sŵnami”. It is this premise which enables the album to switch easily between the up-tempo synth sound of “Rho Dy Fyd” to the more ethereal sounding “Be Bynnag Fydd”. Yes, it feels a little random at times, but that’s what gives it that recognisably Sŵnami sound.
There are, of course, lighter moments. “Uno, Cydio, Tanio” is guaranteed to get stuck in your head, as is the album’s lead single, ‘Wyt ti’n Clywed?”, which has an anthemic feel about it. Some take a little longer to grow on you, slower burns like ‘Concerta’ take a few listens before they really embed. The album’s opening track “Theatr”, previous released as a single back in 2021, is another such example, which doesn’t entirely do justice to the depth of the rest of the album. Without doubt, the strongest tracks are those where Davies’ vocals are allowed to shine and where the slightly chaotic vibe of the album is given free reign.
The eleven tracks which make up Sŵnamii are all refreshingly different. Talking about the album, the band admit that “we’re always going to be developing and changing, that’s who we are as human beings. It’ll always sound like Sŵnami, but it is going to constantly change”. Change is a part of life, it’s human nature and, for the most part, it’s an aspect of life that’s captured remarkably well by Sŵnamii.