Gwenifer Raymond’s eerie primitive Welsh folk music seeks the unspeakable

The artist expands her vision to what she calls “Welsh primitive”, an even more haunting assemblage of folk, blues and psychedelia that borders on the bad trip.”


gwenifer raymond

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When: October 1 at 8:00 p.m.


Where: BlueShore at CapU, 2055 Purcell Way, North Vancouver

Tickets: $25 in

Gwenifer Raymond may have a Ph.D. in astrophysics, but that doesn’t mean the Welsh guitarist doesn’t like the mystical.

On his website, Raymond dedicates his second album, Strange Lights Over Garth Mountain, to “Erik Satie, Master Wilburn Burchette, and Ruben the dog.” Erik Satie is a well-known avant-garde composer from the turn of the century, Ruben is self-explanatory, but Burchette?

“He is an esoteric meditative occultist who believed he could transfigure himself beyond divinity through instrumental guitar music,” said Raymond, who is making his Canadian debut with his BluesShore show.

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“He built his own guitar out of wood that he believed had special properties. I think he also built his own pedals, so he had a tremolo pedal that would vibrate at a frequency that would allow him to unlock godhood. He made this incredibly weird but really engaging, trance-y music.”

Except for the “incredibly weird” part, the same could be said for Raymond’s own instrumental guitar music. On his 2018 full-length debut, You Never Were Much of a Dancer, he explored American blues and folk traditions to lurid effect. Inspired by the landscapes of her upbringing, in 2020’s Garth Mountain, she expands her vision into what she calls “primitive Welsh,” an even more haunting assemblage of folk, blues, and psychedelia that borders on the bad trip.

Raymond, whose fingerpicking style has been compared to that of American folk-blues musician John Fahey, began playing guitar soon after receiving a Nirvana cassette from his mother at the age of eight or nine. He discovered Lead Belly through the band’s version of the American bluesman’s Where Did You Sleep Last Night on the 1994 Nirvana Unplugged album in New York, and from there he fell down a rabbit hole of American folk and blues. . This led to an appreciation of ‘outsider’ artists, particularly musicians, who are formally unskilled and uneducated but nonetheless able to communicate their particular view of the world.

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For example, she’s a fan of Daniel Johnston, a bipolar American singer-songwriter who emerged in the ’90s with a series of home tapes that made the rounds in alternative rock circles. In addition to creating cleverly simple pop songs, Johnston loved to draw, especially characters from Marvel Comics.

“There’s a picture of me when I was younger giving him a big hug,” Raymond said. “She did a show in a record store before a concert in Cardiff. Fortunately, my brother’s girlfriend at the time was working there, so he took me backstage, so to speak. She was wearing an Incredible Hulk T-shirt, which I think he appreciated.”

Raymond’s parents and siblings are in the arts and humanities, as she says, and she calls her pursuit of astrophysics, fueled by her love of Star Trek, even “arguably the worst, Star Trek: Voyager,” “almost like my rebellion.” .” So how do you reconcile her attraction to the esoteric with what she calls her “strict scientific background”?

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“I’ve always believed that we’re only here for a short time, so why let the truth get in the way of a good story, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone?” he said.

“But when you go into the depths of quantum physics and dark cosmology, there is a spiritual crossover. There is a great strangeness or ineffability of the human mind to understand some of these things. It’s just that quantum mechanics supports it with math, which is fascinating. I remember when I was doing my masters that I understood something in quantum mechanics that I couldn’t understand by any other means than mathematics. It’s like when you learn a word that has no translation in any other language. Once you understand the word in that language, you understand that concept.”

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However, she is still drawn to the supernatural. In 2018, around the release of her debut, she wrote and performed a score for a 1907 silent French short film, The Red Spectre. When she’s asked what movie she’d like to do a soundtrack for, she thinks for a few seconds before tapping into Ghostwatch, a 1992 British reality-horror/mockup.

“It’s a fake reality show where they put British TV celebrities in a haunted house, and then it turns into a kind of War of the Worlds where it becomes really haunted, like they show you a ghost and they play the pictures and it wasn’t there. Raymond said. “It’s been adopted into the British popular horror canon even though it’s not a movie. But there’s still something wonderful about it.”

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