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Bran (Brân)

Prog Folk

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Bran (Brân) Ail-Ddechra album cover
2.76 | 8 ratings | 3 reviews | 0% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1975

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Y Ddôr Ddig (3:30)
2. F'Annwyl Un (3:01)
3. Y Gwylwyr (3:00)
4. Wrth Y Ffynnon (4:19)
5. Ynys Gudd (2:27)
6. Myfyrdod (2:19)
7. Rhodiaf Hen Lwybrau (2:44)
8. Mor Braf (2:54)
9. Caledfwlch (3:04)
10. Blodyn (3:45)
11. Y Crewr (3:36)
12. Breuddwyd (4:04)

Total time: 38:43

Line-up / Musicians

- John Gwyn / guitars, vocals
- Nest Howells / vocals, keyboards
- Gwyndaf Roberts / guitar
- Dafydd Meirion / drums, flute

Releases information

LP Sain 1038M (UK)

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BRAN (BRÂN) Ail-Ddechra ratings distribution

(8 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(0%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(0%)
Good, but non-essential (62%)
Collectors/fans only (25%)
Poor. Only for completionists (12%)

BRAN (BRÂN) Ail-Ddechra reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ClemofNazareth
3 stars Brân’s first album is the only one that really fits in the progressive folk fold; the ones that followed only became progressively more commercial-sounding, and by their third with the departure of keyboardist and angelic vocalist Nest Howells the group abandoned all pretense of being anything but a regional b- list contemporary Welsh rock band.

Too bad, because thanks almost exclusively to Ms. Howells (along with the songwriting and pretty decent of John Gwyn) the band showed some promise in the mold of groups like Mellow Candle or Fuchsia. I’ve read several places that the most excellent prog folk band Pererin had its roots in this group, but in reading the various album lineups for both groups the linkage isn’t particularly strong. Indeed, most of the members that remained in Brân by the time their third album released all ended up in very conventional and forgettable regional groups.

This album clearly demonstrates the two sides of the band, at times seeming to almost compete for attention. The opening “Y Ddor Ddig” is a rather simple and melodic pop-rock tune in the seventies mold of bands such as the Bay City Rollers or Greg Kihn Band; nothing progressive, just decent bar- band fodder. Ultimately forgettable.

If you give up after that one though you’ll miss out on Ms. Howells’ near-operatic soprano that fairly drips with rustic, bucolic resonance from the opening notes of “F'annwyl Un” through “Y Gwylwyr “ and “Wrth Y Ffynnon”. Each of these follows a similar pattern of simple rhythm, tasty electric guitar breaks and Ms. Howells plunking away on her keyboards (that sound like a spinet at times) and crooning blissfully. Not really the highest order of progressive folk, but the noteworthy guitar work and tastefully understated bass are just enough to keep things from passing as either traditional folk or pop.

The band actually makes an attempt at mixing their mainstream rock sensibilities with Ms. Howells’ inherently folk vocals on “Myfyrdod” to mixed effect. The guitar work and percussion are cheesy and quite dated, while Nest’s voice comes off awkward and disjointed and results in something that probably felt as unnatural to record as it sounds. Not the track to start with if you want to hear the best these guys had to offer.

Speaking of the Bay City Rollers by the way, check out “Mor Braf” and “Blodyn“ for other examples of that three-chord seventies spandex rock but once again unconvincingly peppered with Howells’ voice at oddly-placed intervals. The latter one sounds more like a tavern drinking-song as well, something I suppose every live band needs in their arsenal but which should be left off studio albums in my opinion.

But the good outweighs the bad here, and tracks like “Caledfwich” and “Y Crewr” with their ballad-like tempo and wispy flute are much more suited to her voice and make the off-kilter songs a bit more tolerable.

The closing “Breud Dwyd” is an interesting and beautiful composition that is undeniably the best track on the album and probably of the band’s career, indolent in a charming way with Howells’ classically- inspired piano solo and delicate organ bleats and a couple of mild guitar forays just pronounced enough to remind you this is rock you’re listening to. The interesting part of this song is that the band also recorded a more upbeat version with vocals, which was released both as a rare single and on a Welsh folk compilation album several years after their demise. Its one of the few times I’ve heard of a band releasing the same basic tune in such distinctly different renditions. Just a bit of trivia but cause for a couple minutes of pondering as to what their intent was.

Anyway, I like this album even with its unevenness and lack of any real masterpiece tracks. Overall I’ll say this is easily decent, though not quite outstanding. Three stars is fair, although I will only recommend this to seriously-hooked fans of progressive folk music since they are the group most likely to tolerate the three or four decidedly non-prog works here.


Review by kenethlevine
3 stars A Welsh group playing rock music or a rock group playing Welsh music, or some combination thereof? The answer in the case of Brân, seems to be "yes". Their debut was a battleground of tired rock idioms of the 1970s and plaintive ballads from some other century's 70s, with the modern rock notching the win.

The identity crisis is apparent from the outset, with the rock and roll oriented "Y Ddôr Ddig', notable only for its oddly chosen mellotron backing, and is repeated in various guises throughout the album. Things get more interesting with "Y Gwylwyr", which combined both forces to some degree, as a catchy yet clunky riff is played off against Nest Howells' beseeching voice, and the somewhat less dynamic "Myfyrdod ". Among quieter numbers, "Rhodiaf Hen Lwybrau" evokes early CLANNAD at their best, but with Nest's own rolling piano replacing the harp, and "Caledfwlch" is slightly jazzier with added flute and gently acidic electric guitar.

The real highlights are the two final cuts. The haunting "Y Crewr " sports Nest's best vocals and warm electric pian, with more trippy distorted guitar. The piano dominated instrumental "Breuddwyd " shows that Nest has more than a little of an understated Wakeman in her. It's unlike anything the group ever did, and might also be the tune for which they are best known.

Brân remains most notable for its ties to the as yet unformed PERERIN than for their own material, and, even though their debut is a good album, its schizophrenia and general paucity of focused inspiration mean it is unlikely to achieve much regularity in your playlist.

Latest members reviews

2 stars A prog rock folk band singing in Welsh is not the usual fare. Unfortunate, the excellent colourful Welsh folk music tradition has been bypassed on this album and been replaced by some pretty generic 1970s pop/rock. What a shame ! This album winds it's way through some horrendous bad trying-to- ... (read more)

Report this review (#237152) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Friday, September 4, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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