Shares new single, “Môr Du”
Self-titled debut album
due 4th November on Libertino Records
UK live dates announced inc. London headline show on 14th January
Ahead of the release of self-titled debut album on 4th November on Libertino Records, YNYS shares sweeping new single “Môr Du“.
YNYS is the solo outing of Welsh songwriter Dylan Hughes, previously known for psychedelic pop band Race Horses. His debut full-length is a bold return, the album’s ambitious sound palette journeying from Big Star power pop to Beach House via cinematic strings and Italo disco synthesizers from 1981, sung in Welsh and English.
A lot of the songs wrestle with Hughes’ move back to Aberystwyth from Cardiff; home from home, city to rural, the idea of thriving urban activity, and the stillness of a rural seaside hometown. “Moving on but trying to get back to somewhere,” he shares.
This real sense of connectivity, passion, and ethereal exuberance all emit from the core of Ynys compelling creations. Weaving such immersive textures amongst the orchestral arrangement, “Môr Du” sits as the triumphant and enthralling opener for Ynys forthcoming album, and what a mighty release to kick off the record. It captures all the beauty that Ynys threads through the vision, emotive-led harmonies dazzle with this vivid adventurous essence. Intelligently creating this movement which associates a sense of calm, and familiarity and through the tonality this emphasis in the warm notes.
The ambitious landscape grows, consistently shifting whilst proudly boasting such bountiful additions, countless hooks, and essential textures which become the plush bed for the affectionate vocal harmonies and looped lyrics to fuse with.
There is something so authentic with Ynys, so refreshing within their creative vision. Music that elevates the audience, moves the listener, and pulls them to the center of the symphony that is carefully constructed throughout. Much like the lyrics and the story behind its formation, Ynys delivers a release that pulls you back, time and time again. Hypnotic and touching.
Dylan says of the song: “It’s a bit of a cliché isn’t it, wishing you away from the city, back by the sea. I guess Môr Du is about feeling that a part of you is missing; about moving on and reconnecting. It started out as quite a stripped back song but over lockdown, I would return to the song, add somethings, take somethings out – by the end it had grown into quite a mad cinematic song. I couldn’t really tell how it ended up like that, but I’m glad that it did.”
Listen on streaming platforms:
Thursday 3rd November – Other Voices Festival, Cardigan
Friday 4th November – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
Thursday 17th November – The Coopers Arms, Aberystwyth
Saturday 3rd December – Bunkhouse, Swansea
Saturday 14th January – The Victoria, London
Ynys (un-iss) means island. Dylan Hughes grew up in Aberystwyth, West Wales. It’s a place visualised by the steep incline down to the bay, and beyond it is the sea, where you are constantly reminded that you are at the edge of an island. There’s nothing on the horizon, the next stop being Ireland. Dylan would often think about that vastness, and “the moonlit sea” he grew up watching. Then he moved to Cardiff, Wales’ epicentre. Bustling, built-up, and busy.
While in Cardiff, Dylan spent his time playing synth in psychedelic pop band Race Horses. Across those years of gigging and touring, Dylan had been dropping memos and notes on his phone. Hundreds of them. Any and every melody, idea, and thought he had an itch to document. When the band ended and Dylan had fallen back into “normal life”, as he calls it, the need to revisit those memos bubbled and bubbled. “I didn’t really have an intention for them, but they were there, and they kept me in touch with making music.” Dylan says. Eventually, he committed to a weekend at a recording studio. Tŷ Drwg, in Grangetown, Cardiff – “with Frank Naughton, who is a bit of a genius engineer. He has an extremely varied discography and all these interesting instruments and synths always at the ready when you need some inspiration,” Dylan says. The weekend was spent revisiting past memories, being reinspired by his own former creativity, a creativity that he had felt he lost.
He hadn’t lost a thing. A few songs came out of the weekend, and found their way to Libertino Records. Ynys was born. A solo project, and a release for these songs that Dylan needed to get off his chest (or phone, at least).
Then lockdown hit. The space and time allowed Dylan to really tap into these songs, to look at why they existed, to think about and pull and push them apart until they were whole and discovered. Introspective exploration. The beginnings of an album began to brew, a few singles slowly dripped through the pandemic. The deep consideration and obsessive exploration of sounds and themes gained an extra complexity when Dylan moved back home.
“It only really became clear after the process of writing lyrics down for the album sleeve but, I think a lot of the songs wrestle with that idea of moving back to Aberystwyth from Cardiff. Moving on but trying to get back to somewhere.” Dylan says.
Home from home, city to rural, the idea of thriving urban activity, and the stillness of a rural seaside hometown. This contemplation can be heard on Môr Du (Black Sea), which was recorded over a two year period. “Môr Du is about missing that midnight sea. I think at the time I thought it was a song about moving on, now I think it’s actually a bit of a leaving the city song. You can go months in the city without seeing the sea.” Dylan says.
“I’d been thinking about moving home for a while. There was plenty of doubt, at least half the album was written before I’d made any decision.” Dylan says. The album’s narrative aligns with this. Throughout vast and timeless soundscapes take you on a journey of self-discovery. Welcome to the Island might best capture this, despite being instrumental beyond the whisper of ‘welcome to the island’. “I was trying to channel The Prisoner, that 60s TV show which was filmed in Portmeirion, it gave this kind of weirdness which grows and grows in the song.”
The strangeness isn’t eerie, it’s a unique capture of being both meditative and Bond-levels cinematic at once. A main-character moment which borrows sounds instinctively from psychedelic pop to Ethiopian jazz, via arena style guitar melodies.
Similar sounds feature through the album, as well as unfashionable Italo disco synthesisers from 1981 “that were laying about”. The result is a precise record with a clear narrative arc, yet full of transition and clash. The unpredictable but guaranteed pull and push of a tide, waves of ideas, Welsh and English. Lyrically large existential questions are a theme too. When do you know? Have you got the answer? Are you going to wait forever?
Despite doubt, there is also undeniably an optimism across the record. “The music is definitely about reconnecting. It’s easy once you stop doing something for a bit for the tide to drag that into years of time. Your confidence goes. That’s where I was for some time. But a few well-meaning friends basically made me confront the fact that I needed to do this.” Dylan says.
“I felt a lot of freedom making this record. There was a pull toward doing this for me. Even if I was fighting it for a few years. Once I started recording, dusting off the old synths and layering the harmonies I quickly felt the muscle memory return.” The breath of fresh air in Dylan’s life is reflected in the music.
The album’s ambitious sound palette takes you on a journey from Big Star power pop to Beach House via cinematic strings. Dylan’s melodic gift and adventurous playful song craft has conjured a rich collection of melancholic off-kilter psychedelic pop songs that mirror the vulnerability, yet assured creativity of alternative touchstones such as Velvet Underground, Elliot Smith and Teenage Fan Club.
More specifically to Dylan’s sound though, listening to the album is to imagine yourself recovering breath at the top of the cliff, the row of four and five-story houses on our left, and the expansive sea in front of you. The wind, the crashing of waves, the stillness and the birds replaced by Ynys’ dramatic, spacious, psychedelic, and above all, an instinctive personal musical landscape.
1. Môr Du
2. Mae’n Hawdd
4. Tro Olaf
5. Welcome to the Island
6. There’s Nothing the Sea Doesn’t Know
7. When Do You Know
8. Aros am Byth