CaStLeS – Fforesteering

Writing from the perspective of someone who didn’t grow up in the UK and who has never set foot in Wales, a trio hailing from Snowdonia seemed to me a dash more obscure and niche than your typical indie band. I’m not going to lie: before having a listen, for a city gal like me, ‘remote and impenetrable’ seemed to be a more accurate description of these bearded mountain musicians than simply passing them off as mysterious. My apprehensions about the enigmatic band, however, melted away as I relaxed into the melodies of their Fforesteering. Although the lyrical poetry of many of their songs, excluding ‘Heed Your Desire’, is lost on those of us unlucky enough to be ignorant of the Welsh language, the dreamy, multilayered album has enough musical innovation to be enjoyed on a purely sonic level. As you can infer from the typography of the band’s title, they are never quite what you’d expect. While the groovy, guitar-driven sound is rhythmic, and sometimes repetitive, their instruments take you down a twisting path.

At times they come across as profoundly rural and ageless. The percussion instruments seem to transport you to a campfire untamed, somewhere wild and inhabited by elves. It is undeniable that there are elements of magic (mushroom or otherwise) embroidered into their music. Maybe this sense of hypnosis is just the result of their capacity to impose tranquility, in stark contrast to the angst and build of the music domineering popular culture at the moment. In a world which is brimming with social turmoil and political chaos, more than ever their music seems to soothe the folds of your mind. While perhaps a degree of dissonance accompanies escaping into the illusory landscape they crafts, you can’t help but be enticed by the music’s movingly contemplative atmosphere. It sounds almost as if it could be the soundtrack of nature herself. Considering that we now live on a planet where one of the most powerful leaders is so detached from the natural world that he believes global warming is a hoax, the way the track ‘Heed Your Desire’ revels in going “out about in the Country”, is particularly charming and beguiling. Despite the sparks of electro which tinge their music, you get a sense that they hark backwards.

Yet I don’t want you to assume that my description of their rustic serenity is a coded way of saying they’re boring. Rather than being as dry and depressing as swathes of ominous statistics about climate change often are, a lot of their tunes are as stimulating as the nature they portray, consistently elevating the listener’s mood. As I slowly peeled back the layers of the album, I realised that while there is something intrinsically Welsh and folk about it, spiritually and musically it is related to so many other genres, modes, and meanings. ‘Ffrwydriadau O Deimladau’ is an ideal example, the song spinning with a blithe radiance. It has the same lushly reassuring hippy vibes of The Flaming Lips. CaStLeS’s new album art captures the influence of 1960s and 70s psychedelic subcultures, as splotches of vibrantly pulsating paint fuse with wavy lines which ambiguously represent bark. Musically, surf guitar and kraut-rock can be identified as oversea kin of the band’s novel sound, and one can even detect hints of shoegaze’s sway. Ultimately, the music of CaStLeS may have been conceived on a Welsh mountain, but there’s no reason for it to remain solely there. I could imagine their head-in-the-clouds notes wafting just as easily through an Oxford dorm room, a reunion of Manson’s cult, or a child’s dream.

-- Amaris Proctor, November 18, 2016