Gwasg Gelert: Y Côd Da Vinci

Y Côd Da Vinci is a 15 track LP made from samples of an illicit Welsh audio translation of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Accompanied by some ham, leeks, bleu cheese and persimmons, the label Strategic Tape Reserve certainly knows how to advertise the music they put out.

According to the liner notes from the release, this and other bootleg recordings were and sold by Gelert Press (Gwasg Gelert), made up of students from Averystwyth University. They were dissatisfied with the level of autonomy that Wales achieved in the referendum on devolution, and created these bootlegs as an act of civil disobedience. In addition to this translation, they also ripped albums from bands on major record labels like Blur and Oasis, achieving popularity along the Cambrian coastline. Due to the bootleg source, the German label, Strategic Tape Reserve, has asked that the maker of these songs remain anonymous.

With the historical Pandora’s box that is the origin of this mysterious cassette, the liner notes and supplemental reading are incredibly interesting. The samples taken from the bootlegs provide an atmosphere that is a sort of future-medieval science fiction thriller. Eerie, with choral components and moody orchestral synthesis, the Welsh-translated speech sounds like backwards English. The artist has managed to maintain the story-telling aspect of the original cassettes, including whole sentences at the beginning of each track. This allows for the theatre of the translations to permeate as well.

Atmosphere is a major aspect of the release. Listeners without knowledge of the language may feel as though they’re escaping Freddie Krueger in a Welsh forest, or perhaps as though each song is the next level of a video game where a calm but stoney Welsh wizard describes their quest. Tracks such as “Troad Tri-Phwynt yn y Smart Car,” are a bit higher energy, with more manipulation of the found sounds. The narrator speaking English words like “smart car” make Welsh words sound even more foreign. Even heavily layered tracks like “Cockpit yr Hawker” don’t feel like complicated electronic tracks. Truly headphone candy, flourishes and effected sounds pan and tickle ear drums.

Despite the attempts to destroy Gwasg Gelert’s products, Welsh-ripped audio can be found among the darkest corners of the internet.

Rating: 7.0/10

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