Veering often towards the psychedelic and often towards the damn right silly, Hen Ogledd LPs always raise an eyebrow, seeing much influence from the likes of Super Furry Animals, Gruff Rhys and Tuneyards. Free Humans is another beguiling and novel, yet satirical piece of work for the band.
Founded by Richard Dawson, combined with harpist, Rhodri Davies, with the inclusion of Dawn Bothwell and Sally Pilkingoton, Hen Ogledd’s name comes from the Welsh name for The Old North and this record cements the band’s place with this solid and paradoxical record.
The band had already shared new track Space Golf ahead of the album release, to give us a clue as to what to expect. Lyrically skewering Trump, this single denounces the obscenity of the ruling elite and catastrophic capitalism. Fun and light in aesthetic, the track like the rest of the album focuses on the wrongdoings in the world, with much tongue-in-cheek.
However, this is not the only track to be released from this new LP. Crimson Star and Trouble have also been dropped. The former a stunning pop track with many glitch sounds, and much of the traits of an 80s power ballad. Trouble inspires the toes to tap, with it’s funky groove and repetitive percussion, which sits behind those lyrics so comically.
Inspired as much by ABBA as the work of 12th century mystic-composer-naturalist-visionary Hildegard von Bingen, touched equally by the spirits of radical philosophical plumber Mary Midgley and PC Music star Hannah Diamond, as quiet as the paintings of Agnes Martin yet bombastic like a Werner Herzog documentary Free Humans is not only an album of contradictions, but which also pulls as many references and inspired observations as you could think possible. Tackling themes of love, friendship, Gaia theory, sewers, the nature of time, human stench, and the thrills of wild swimming, it’s remarkable that Free Humans is only fourteen tracks long, and that it works as a compiled LP.
Free Humans is surprisingly the most coherent and aesthetically pleasing works of Hen Ogledd I have had my ear around so far. With tracks that combine often too much, but with a fantastic production, and wonderfully experimental approach, this record couldn’t be perhaps anymore stimulating but then you listen to the lyrics. Beguiling yet joyful, Free Humans sees the band’s best work yet.
Free Humans is available on CD (WEIRDCD127), standard and deluxe LP (WEIRD127LP / WEIRD127LPX), limited edition Domino Mart LP with exclusive poster (WEIRD127LPXM) and digitally (WEIRD127D), via Domino Records.