Based off of scientist-turned-writer Owain Owain’s 1976 novel of the same name, Y Dydd Olaf is centred around the concept of a near-future war of robots turning humans into other robots, with the protagonist fighting against these mechanical forces by writing in a diary to keep hold of his own thoughts.
Following in the steps of The Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (an album with a similar concept), Gwenno is able to use moody synth-pop to get across her melancholy outlook on real world situations as well as the fictional robot battle even if understanding the language is not the listeners strong suit: the vocals are all Welsh, except for closing track Amser which is sung in Cornish (a language with around 600 fluent speakers) – so a niche crowd to aim at.
While Gwenno doesn’t hit the harshness of Cohen and co.’s track Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Part 2, standout song Fratolish Hiang Perpeshki is the sort of pop that can be danced to while still keeping a sulky face. Reminiscent of Kraftwerk’s “robot pop” on breakthrough Autobahn, Fratolish Hiang Perpeshki switches dimensions throughout with fantastic production and Gwenno’s gorgeous vocals riding over the top.
Opener Chwyldro, the track that encapsulates Owain Owain’s novel, is a beautifully summery pop song. It’s all very air-y, and there’s a blanket of other-worldly-ness surrounding the fluid incisions of synthesisers. Calon Peirant ups the ante a little – the synths sound hurried but Gwenno’s calming influence is able to bring the momentum back to comfort level. Stwff mixes in old-timey broadcasts with a classic sounding two chord piano piece, cut through the middle with jarring andrioid-esque interjections.
Y Dydd Olaf is an excellent solo debut by Gwenno. The downcast nature of the content is upended by Gwenno’s pop sensibilities – there’s a refusal to be too downtrodden with all that’s being put forward. Y Dydd Olaf is intellectual pop through and through.