We were hungover, ok!
Leap and the net will appear. Ushering in a Friday morning at End of the Road Festival with the welcome familiarity of stray peacocks, dew in the long grass and heavy heads from Loud And Quiet’s Time Hop Disco the night before (an extended edition this year, programmed through the three early hours of this morning – whose idea was that?), Gwenno, minus the billed Angharad Davies, stands beneath the Big Top Tent’s starry sky. It’s a sitting crowd bar a couple, here to watch her re-score Bait, Mark Jenkin’s BAFTA-winning art-house picture playing on the silver screen behind them.
On its own, Bait is a modern classic, shot with clockwork cameras in grainy 16mm black and white film and hand-developed. It’s a story that explores the tensions between a Cornish village’s dying fishing trade and the tourist industry; cuts of fishing nets are used to decorate holiday homes while old family boats are repurposed for coastal cruises, sold by the half hour. Jenkin’s original drone-heavy score murmurs in and out with the tides for Gwenno and and unnamed hand in Davies’ absence to jump from – an all analogue affair. Look carefully and fibers of clothing are caught within the film stock, pollen glitters in the emulsion, as fingerprints and white scratches scurry out of frame.
It’s a fitting marriage for Gwenno, whose own music tears at the fragility presumed in an endangered language – Kernewek is only spoken by five hundred people worldwide, and only officially recognized in 2003, but a rich playfulness reverberates from its construction. A standout track from Gwenno’s Cornish language album Le Kov, ‘Eus Keus?’, transitions the sea’s quietude to the chaos of a pub brawl on screen, offsetting her live score where synth loops and gentle guitars stretch across any moment free from dialogue. It’s an extension of the irreverent utopia she’s spent a career building, a freedom of language and expression against a capitalist tragicomedy.
Her vocal occasionally cuts off as it weaves between the clamour of seagulls and chugging motorboats. From exquisite one-liners – “What are you doing?” “That’s between me and the clamping company.” – to a hypnotic humdrum – “What’s on?” “Nothing much.” Gwenno’s score is drone with affection, leaving space for a film that feels truly timeless. It’s the perfect festival exposition, concertinaing drone, shoegaze and vibrant art-pop with decades of cinema history. At any rate, it’ll be fish and chips tonight.
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