Back in 2009, Welsh power trio The Joy Formidable announced themselves as kinetic force to be reckoned with on their debut EP, A Balloon Called Moaning. To celebrate that EP’s 10th anniversary, the band decided to revisit those songs in a truly unconventional way in the shape of Y Falŵn Drom – an acoustic reimagining of the EP’s eight tracks, with the lyrics translated from English to the band’s native tongue, Welsh.
We spoke to frontwoman and guitarist Ritzy Bryan, and asked her to pick her favourite guitar tracks from both the 10th-anniversary reissue of the original EP, and Y Falŵn Drom.
Estrys (Y Falŵn Drom)
“Lucky me, I have two bodies of work to pick from that are both so different. From Y Falŵn Drom, I would say that Estrys (the Welsh language version of Ostrich) is one of my favourites.
“The charming thing about the original was the density of the layers. It’s one of the early songs where you really start seeing the signatures and the sounds that shaped The Joy Formidable. Those driving, high melodic bass lines, single note guitars, the string/vocal and synthetic ambiences that wrap around everything. There’s a lot going on in the original, so this stripped-down version allows the lyrics and guitar passages to breath.
“At the end of the recording, we added a section of an anonymous Welsh poem called Mi Gerddaf Gyda Thi, which translates to ‘I’ll walk beside you’. It’s a beautiful poem about loving someone unconditionally. This song was written in the throes of trying to forgive someone who’d caused pain but never apologised, and so the poem feels like a good counter to that, 10 years on, about the possibility of love and holding on to goodness.”
Chwyrlio (Y Falŵn Drom)
“The Welsh language version of Chwyrlio [aka Whirring] turned out great. It’s taken from a live recording we did last New Year’s Eve at the Boston Winery. That was a fun night. I’m always pleased when a fun, free-spirited show results in a good recording!
“We record virtually every show we play these days, more fun stuff for the vault! We were joined that night by a string quartet based out of Boston, and the arrangement that Rhydian [Dafydd, bass] conceived with them turned out beautifully. It’s a variant on the ambiences of the original.
“I love the word ‘chwyrlio’, too. I was chatting with a friend about another cool Welsh word that’s related, a ‘chwyrligwagan’ – I could say that word all day. It means ‘merry-go-round’ in Welsh, which ironically feels like what I’ve been riding for the past 10 years!”
The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade (A Balloon Called Moaning)
“I don’t know how many tracks I can pick from my own record before becoming indulgent, but I’ll choose a final one from the original A Balloon Called Moaning: a song that hasn’t left our live set since we wrote it.
That to me suggests our attachment to it. The Greatest light Is The Greatest Shade was written in a night in our tiny bedroom studio in West Norwood a decade ago. I can’t take credit for my favourite bit of the track, the synthetic sliding bass line, but this track stands out as being one of the earliest examples of how our writing relationship was growing and what Rhydian and I were capable of creating together.
“Listening back, there’s some beautiful interweave in the guitars, lots of different effects throughout the song, and I can barely remember how it all came together. I guess that’s the fantastic thing about being in the moment, and the flush and bloom of certain songs in your career.
“Unlike that ease of creativity, the Welsh lyrical translation to this was a fucker! I think we did it justice though.”
The Joy Formidable’s 10-year anniversary edition of A Balloon Called Moaning/Y Falŵn Drom is out now on Hassle Records.