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Datblygu – 1985-1995

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Datblygu - 1985-1995Yn ddiwedd mis Ebrill eleni, teithwyd drosodd i Gaerdydd (sydd yn hyfryd, o ddifrif) i wylio gŵyl CAM. Mewn gwirionedd, es i, i wylio Datblygu a digwydd fod yne bandiau eraill yn chwarae (parch i Ian Watson ai electro-acwstig clecian ac electro-pop Y Pencadlys, a byddai’r ddau ohonynt wedi gwneud y daith yn gwerth chweil os nid bod Datblygu ar y bil).

Dwi wedi bod yn ymwybodol o Datblygu ar gyfer rhywbeth fel 15 mlynedd — codi CD mewn siop ail law ar sail fod John Peel wedi chwarae nhw ac fod o wedi drysu fi. Ac maen nhw wedi bod yn band sydd wedi ymddangos ar bob cymysgedd-tâp ers hynny, band y mae ei felodiau wedi arnofio drwy fy meddwl. Hudolus a rhwystredig (yr rhwystr iaith) … roedd yna ychydig o ddisgwyliad at y sioe.

Mae yna adolygiad o Ŵyl CAM yma — ond roedd gwylio nw yn y cnawd yn… rhyfedd. Eithriadol, anhygoel, rhyfeddol. Rhwystredig, ond yn bennaf oherwydd dwi ddim yn siarad Cymraeg ac na ddylwn ddisgwyl i’r band i dyhuddo i mi.

In late April this year, we trotted over to Cardiff (which is lovely, seriously, the centre has some gorgeous architecture) to watch a festival. That’s actually a caprice, I went to watch Datblygu and other bands happened to be playing (props, therein, to Ian Watson‘s electro-acoustic squelch and crackle and Y Pencadlys‘s electo-pop exuberance-core, both of whom would’ve made the trip worthwhile had Datblygu not been on the bill).

I’d been aware of Datblygu for something like fifteen-odd years — picked up a CD in a second hand store on the basis of faintly remembering that John Peel had played them and it’d confused me. And they’ve been a band that’ve appeared on every mix-tape since, a band whose melodies have dithered through my mind. Beguiling and frustrating (the language barrier)… there was a bit of expectation there.

A longer review of CAM Festival is here — but watching them in the flesh was… peculiar. Outstanding, amazing, phenomenal. Frustrating, but mostly because I don’t speak Welsh and I shouldn’t expect the band to placate me.

Datblygu CAM 2015
Maent yn chwarae yn bennaf ei stwff newydd neu fersiynau prin-adnabyddadwy o ganeuon cynharach (ac yn gynnwys “Mynd” o’r casgliad hwn). Roedd yn wych, mewn gwirionedd. Gig y flwyddyn. Gig â phob blwyddyn. 30 munud, dim encôr, a dagrau o oedolion. Cyd-destun i casgliad hwn.

Mae bandiau cwlt yn doreithiog, reformations yn gach, ac roedd MES yn iawn am pobol diflas sy’n edrych yn ôl bob amser. Dydi Datblygu ddim yn perthyn i’r tuedd diwygio yma, oherwydd bod nhw ddim wedi bod yn digon poblogaidd yn y lle cynta. Mae’r syniad o “fand pwysicaf Cymraeg” yn egwyriad i’r mwyafrif rockism o ddiwylliant cerddoriaeth Brydeinig; egwyriad sy’n parhau i fod yn un o’r bandiau mwyaf rhyfedd a mwyaf hudolus.

Mewn adolygiad blaenorol Efallai fy mod wedi gwneud tipyn o beth am yr ochr ieithyddol. Ac mae’n bwysig. Yn wir, mor bwysig bod cymar o’r Gymraeg Cymru yn dweud “y peth yw, nid siarad yr iaith, rydych yn colli peth gorau am Datblygu“. Ac mae’n debygol iawn. Ond yn eu gwylio yn CAM sylweddolais fod Patricia Morgan, yr aelod Datblygu nad yw’n cael siarad am gymaint, yn gwneud rhai pethau yn eithaf rhyfeddol, troi elfennau cymharol o syml, i mewn i rhywbeth nad oedd yn erioed yn gwneud synnwyr, ond yn hollol hudolus bob amser.
They played mostly either new stuff or barely-recognisable versions of earlier songs (including this collection’s “Mynd”). It was heartbreakingly brilliant, really. Gig of the year. Gig of all the years. 30 minutes, no encore, and tears from grown-ups who didn’t seem particularly cry-in-public-y. I guess that puts this collection into a context.

Cultish bands are ten a penny, reformations are bollocks and MES was always right about the look-back bores. Datblygu’s context, meanwhile, isn’t quite that of the reformation-train because, well, there’s not quite enough people who liked them in the first place. The notion of “the most important Welsh-language” band is an aberration to the majority rockism of British music culture; an aberration that remains one of the weirdest and most beguiling of bands.

In a previous review, I may have made a bit of a thing about the language side of things. And it is important. In fact, so important that a mate from Welsh Wales said “the thing is, not speaking the language, you’re missing the best thing about Datblygu“. And he’s likely right. But watching them at Cam I realised that Patricia Morgan, the Datblygu member that doesn’t get talked about so much, was doing some quite astonishing things, turning relatively simple elements, loops and scrapes, into something that didn’t ever quite syncopate in a way that made sense, but was always entirely beguiling.
Datblygu CAM 2015
Beth rwy’n fath o ceisio gwneud ydi roi Datblygu mewn cyd-destun sy’n nes at y teimlad eich bod yn cael o Jandek, The Shaggs … mae yna rywbeth cymharol annidwyll am y deitl “outsider”, ond nid oes llawer sy’n swnio fel Datblygu. Grandewch I “Brechdanau Tywod”, lle mae elfennau dolennu yn mynd i fewn ac allan o bob un arall, dim darn yn smalio bod mewn tiwn gydag unrhyw beth arall, a rhyw fath o effaith gitâr glir, fel melodica dirgel yn ei canol. Ac eto, mae’r pryder o methu ddeallt y geiriau, a fyddai naill ai’n oleuo’r tywyllwch neu poenydio ymhellach… gwiriwch “Merch Ty Cyngor” sy’n swnio rhywbeth fel cân chwantus tortsh, rhythm bongo gymharol anghydweddol sy’n bygwth i wneud y gân yn “up-tempo”, ond mae’r gerddoriaeth byth yn codi uwchben maleisus.

Mae’r gymhariaeth Fall yn anochel gyda Datblygu (pa gymariaethau eraill sydd yna i fandiau sydd yn werth gwrando ar ôl 30 mlynedd?) ond mae’r statws ymylol Datblygu yn golygu eu bod yn gallu symud yn gyflym drwy syniadau. Mae’r casgliad yn cynnwys pethau mwy adnabyddus Datblygu (yn colli ychydig or tapiau cyntaf a’r pethau newydd) ac mae ‘na nifer o syniadau yma — rhwng y cymharol gyfeillgar “Y Teimlad” yn 85 (Deallaf ei fod yn eu “hit”, fel petai) i ger-uniongred asid / ic “Sdim Eisiau Esgus” yn 90.

Beth rwy’n ei ddweud yw, er bod y Fall anaml wedi gwyro yn rhy bell oddi wrth y fformat garej, mae Datblygu yn ymddangos i fod yn unigryw o draws y bwrdd. Er eu bod yn ymddangos i ddod o “indie” DIY ystafell wely, mae yna gormod o rhywbeth arall — datganiadau, ymsonol, stwff sain ‘n annaearol.
I’m prevaricating, right? What I’m kind of trying to do is put Datblygu into a context that’s closer to that feeling that you get from Jandek, The Shaggs… there’s something relatively disingenuous about the appellation “outsider”, but there’s not much that sounds like Datblygu. Check “Brechdanau Tywod”, in which there’s looping elements going in and out of each other, nothing apparently approximating being in tune with anything else and some kind of clarion guitar effect, a mysterious melodica stab in the middle. And again, the anxiety of not getting the lyrics, which would either illuminate the murk or haunt it further… check “Merch Ty Cyngor”, which sounds something like a lascivious torch song, a relatively incongruous(ish) bongo rhythm threatening to make the song up-tempo but the music never quite levitating above malicious.

The Fall comparison is kind of inevitable with Datblygu (what other comparisons are there for bands that are worth listening to after 30 years?) but Datblygu’s marginal status means that they can move more swiftly through ideas. This collection covers Datblygu’s better-known stuff (missing the first few tapes and the post-hiatus stuff) and there’s a ridiculous number of ideas here — between the relatively parent-friendly “Y Teimlad” in ’85 (I gather it’s their “hit”, as it were) to the near-orthodox acid/ic “Sdim Eisiau Esgus” in ’90.

What I’m saying is that while the Fall have rarely deviated too far from the garage format, Datblygu seem sui generis across the board. While they seem to come from bedroom DIY indie stylings, there’s too much that’s other — declarative, monologous, weirdo sound stuff.
Datblygu CAM 2015
Mae yna teimlad y fod Datblygu wedi gallu bod yn enfawr, hyd yn oed gyda’r rhwystr iaith, os yw popeth nad oeddent nad ‘n annaearol. Pan fyddant yn mentro i’r tiriogaeth ymson… ac yr wyf yn oedi yma tra byddaf yn sylweddoli pa mor hurt yw hyn, yn enwedig o ystyried fy niffyg Gymraeg … pan fyddant yn bennaeth i mewn i diriogaeth ymson ar “3 Tabled Doeth” — sy’n ymddangos i fod amdan Adolf ac Eva – ar eu halbwm Nadolig Dlwch Tymer Tymore… pan fyddant yn bennaeth i mewn i diriogaeth ymson, yn gwneud hynny, pethau hynny, Rwy’n eithaf siwr Nid oes angen i mi fod yn gymwys pam y dylech chi fod yn gwrando ar Datblygu. Mae “Sgorio Dafydd Iwan Dyn Eira” yn dipyn o darn-sain, yn byw gyda rhyw fath o curiad ddisgo, gyda wasgariad o felodi, dros synau clytwaith a synau cefndir.

Y peth ddaru ddal mi am Datblygu yn y lle cyntaf oedd y alawon; y peth sy’n fy nghadw i yn dod yn ôl yw yr holl drefniadau rhyfedd. Felly, yn ymhlith un o’r casgliadau senglau rhyfeddaf allaf feddwl am — efallai y rhan fwyaf o syndod yw — canau canu ar hyd (os mai dim ond gallwn) hyfryd, rhifau fel “Santa a Barbara” neu “Amnesia”.

Hir a byr ohono yw bod Datblygu yn un or fandiau gorau genedl hon, ac os oedd gennyf fy ffordd, byddai pob cartref yn y tir yn berchen ar o leiaf un LP Datblygu.
There’s the feeling that Datblygu could’ve been massive, even with the language barrier, if everything they didn’t wasn’t somehow weird. When they head to monologue territory… and I pause here while I realise how ridiculous this is, especially given my lack of Welsh… when they head into monologue territory on “3 Tabled Doeth” — which seems to be about on Adolf and Eva — on their their deeply un-Christmassy Christmas album Dlwch Tymer Tymore… when they head into monologue territory, doing that, those things, I’m pretty sure I don’t need to qualify why you should be listening to Datblygu. “Sgorio Dafydd Iwan Dyn Eira” is something of a protracted sound-piece, ostensibly living with some sort of disco beat but smothered in snatches of melody over patchwork noises and background sounds.

The thing that caught me about Datblygu in the first place was the melodies; the thing that kept me coming back was all the weird arrangements, my complete inability to make sense of it over a number of. So in amongst one of the oddest singles collections I can think of there are — perhaps most surprising of all — gorgeous singalong (if only I could) numbers like” Santa a Barbara” or “Amnesia”.

Long and the short of it is that Datblygu are by a large margin one of this nation’s best bands, and if I had my way, each home in the land would own at least one Datblygu LP.

-Geiriau/Words: Kev Nickells-
-Cyfieithiad/Translation: Tomos Evans-
-Lluniau/Pictures: Agata Urbaniak-

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1 comment to Datblygu – 1985-1995

  • Been a fan of this band for the last 10 years or so & this review hits the nail on the head or taro’r hoelen ar ei phen, in Welsh in a number of ways.Statements like, ‘“Merch Ty Cyngor”, which sounds something like a lascivious torch song, a relatively incongruous(ish) bongo rhythm threatening to make the song up-tempo but the music never quite levitating above malicious.’ Is so true of this band, they do sound malicious, but trippy malicious, I’d compare them to The Fall myself, but they’d be more like the weird imps sitting on Mark E Smith’s shoulder poking him in the neck. I think also that it helps you, not being a Welsh speaker in order to appreciate the utter weirdness of their music. My old tattooist once described the American band Grandaddy as sounding like ‘an Eastern European folk band falling down a flight of stairs’, an analogy that on becoming more of a fan of Grandaddy over the years that I’ve struggled with, in fact disagree with, although the analogy itself has proved useful in describing the music of Datblygu to other people who have never heard them before. They are the Welsh institution that people say they are, truly mesmirising. I hope to be able to see them live myself one day, croesi bysedd, nudge nudge wink wink i Dave a Pat 🙂

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