OxFolk reviews: ‘March Glas’ by Elfen

Ben Ray is entranced by Elfen's debut release, giving a small insight into the joys of the Welsh folk music scene

Elfen

It isn’t often that a folk music album seems to resonate with joy and life—when the ending of each track seems to reverberate on long after the final note has died away. Elfen’s debut release March Glas has this quality in buckets, seeming to simply emanate from this trio. With each track leading effortlessly into the next, it is a finely constructed piece of art that spirits the listener away into a world of laughter and song—and almost forces you on your feet to dance along. The group’s embracing of their Welsh language and tradition serves to root this music in a strong sense of place and belonging, with each new tune soaked in a celebration of ‘Welshness’.

Like all good folk music, this album is infused with stories and history, making each individual listening a journey into the depths of Wales. Each tune represents a different route into the music: the slow instrumental track ‘Adar man y mynydd’ (small birds of the mountain) is a beautifully slow, ambling old tune that gradually glides into a rich, full sound, helped by the addition of low and high whistles. Elsewhere on the album, the title track is a gloriously foot-tapping, rollicking song with a driving fiddle from Helina Rees. Stacey Blythe’s rolling accordion line underlies each track and carries the music forward, whilst Jordan Price Williams’ fantastic performance on bass and whistles gives each track its own distinctive feel. Indeed, the sheer breadth of style and emotion this trio manage to evoke is quite astounding—a set of jigs are given a jazz twist that manages to pleasantly surprise the listener again and again, whilst the slow, nostalgic singing of ‘Chwarae’, a poem by one of Wales’s great poets Waldo Williams, evokes lazy summer evenings as the listener is washed away on waves of gorgeous harp playing (Stacey Blythe).

Named fittingly after the Welsh word for ‘element’, Elfen’s music is not only carefully built out of ancient Welsh stories and poems and is beautiful to study—it is also simply a joy to listen to. It’s so much fun. Hearing it, you can’t help but smile. It’s the kind of music that would be even better, if that is possible, when heard live (head to those tour dates!) March Glas is a wonderful album, injecting colour and life into the world of Welsh folk music—a veritable musical ‘cwtch’ you can return to again and again.