In the graveyard of alternative pop you’ll find many tombstones of bands who’ve croaked and been long-forgotten. There is one tombstone however, in the plot marked “weirdly named bands”, that has been behaving kinda strange lately. It’s been buzzing, quaking – sending luminous notes of glowing music into the sky.
This is the tomb of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci: some say the finest alt-pop band of Wales, some say the finest alt-pop band of anywhere. Resting in Peace since 2005, their supernatural melodies of Celtic wonder and chaos rock have recently become active again. But how! Or more specifically… who?
“It is Welsh soul,” says Ash Cooke. “Welsh soul that almost seeps out of the ground.” Ash is the mastermind behind alternative Welsh label Recordiau Prin,
and last summer he decided to get his mates together and record a DIY tribute album to Gorkys. There was just one problem: nationwide pop stars heard about his plans, and they wanted in too.
“Once I mentioned the project on social media I began to get messages from bands asking if they could record songs,” says Ash. “My crazy summer holiday idea suddenly begun to take on a life of its own.” The finished record, ‘Iechyd Da – The Music of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci’ includes contributions from The Loungs, Gulp, Gorwel and Fiona Owen, Zabrinski and many more.
Though undoubtedly a record with multiple highs, there is one song that moved Ash above all others: ‘Let Those Blues Skies’ by Robert Downie. “Rob is an awesome bedroom musician from Scotland who really needs a wider audience,” says Ash.
“He wanted to be involved then found himself struggling a little with his self-confidence and ability to deliver. I gave him a push and he bit the bullet and ended up producing one of the emotional highlights of the album.
“Elsewhere there are definitely examples of bands trying to turn a song upside down and rethink it. Others have stayed true to the originals too. Nick Cullen from LA recorded Iechyd Da even though he can’t speak a work of Welsh! There is a certain amount of commitment in that.”
So now we know the how and the who. What about the why? “Gorky fans are protective of the legacy,” explains Ash. “They carry it forward like they are somehow the custodians of the music – Especially in Wales!
“They were a band that never sold out or made themselves out to be above their audience. They kept themselves just out of reach – almost avoiding the spotlight on purpose, and their music became a secret handshake among those who sought something different.”
One of the many hallmarks of Gorkys music, and perhaps one that renders it timeless, is the band’s affinity with nature and their at times melancholic expression of that. I put this idea to Ash, who agrees – bringing up the band’s origins in Pembrokeshire.
“South West Wales is a magical area much like Cornwall – Pembrokeshire leaves an impression on you in a way that only living by the coast can. It is also a relatively remote area of Wales and I don’t imagine there would have been many mainstream bands playing local gigs when they were growing up. Gorkys’ music is born out of a quirky rural coastal environment mixed with eclectic musical tastes; it’s certainly not avant garde ‘city’ rock, over sophisticated or street wise. Instead it is more organic than that.”
When he first moved to Wales, Ash began working at the legendary independent label Ankst, which first introduced bands such as Gorkys, Super Furry Animals, Catatonia and Topper to the world. Looking back, Ash says that the independent record scene of the ‘80s and ‘90s had a lasting effect on his outlook.
“Ankst, Fast Product, Factory, Mute, Rough Trade – I totally aspire to the DIY post punk label ethic,” he enthuses. “I see no other way of operating in fact. Even in today’s post internet world I think that small labels that focus on specific scenes still have a place. Especially if you mix that up with a good sense of design innovation and originality.
“There is so much music being lost in the digital mist that good honest DIY labels with low overheads can quickly respond to and bring new music directly to a new audience. Legal music streaming is so sterile and impersonal. We still need music products that have emotional value through scarcity. Such is the appeal of records, cassettes and so on.”
It’s time for Ash to say adios, and leave the Gorkys album to do the talking itself – a free album, we might well add. Has it all been worth it? “I’m just immensely proud that Gorkys music has encouraged and inspired others to explore new ways of making music and work outside of their comfort zones,” he says.
IECHYD DA: THE MUSIC OF GORKYS ZYGOTIC MYNCI IS OUT 29 APRIL 2016