Hen Ogledd – Rhodri Davies, Dawn Bothwell, Sally Pilkington, and Richard Dawson – have a lot to say about Free Humans. Paraphrasing the press release, Free Humans is a sprawling musical map of mysterious lands: beaches, holy cities, discotheques, graveyards, bogs, lochs, and forests. It’s the song of human folly as heard by the worms wriggling underfoot and the leaves flapping overhead. It’s an expression of friendship and fellowship; an egg within an egg…
All this is true, but Free Humans is also the collective’s second album and has some pretty huge shoes to fill. Refining the magpie’s approach to songwriting found on Mogic, this record returns to the rivers and the lakes that we’re used to. The result is an album where each song lands like a tiny vignette in some mystical soap opera. I’m always a sucker for a pop hook, so ‘Trouble’ and ‘Crimson Star’ are my standouts, with their heady mix of C86 indie and ABBA. But whether it’s ethereal folktronica or weird medieval glam rock, Hen Ogledd easily pull off every stylistic trick.
Simply put, if Free Humans was a film, then it’d be The Goonies directed by Werner Herzog. It’s a surreal, heartwarming adventure through the hedges and hedgerows of Britain’s musical fringes – an absolute masterpiece.
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