Hap a Damwain is an experimental Alternative music duo from Colwyn Bay, Wales (UK). Drawing many diverse elements from different genres into their sound, Hap a Damwain comes across as quirky yet with enough catchy, melodic elements to deliver music that is intriguing. Their album, Hanner Cant, released on May 1, 2021, is a collection of truly unique songs - full of substance and interesting musical motifs. All of the lyrics are written and sung in Welsh which makes for a refreshing listening experience for those - myself included - who are unfamiliar with the language.
Hanner Cant starts off with “Y Lluniau” which has an uptempo, bass drum heavy beat with a Punkish edge in the chorus. “Yuri Gagarin” comes in with a danceable, funky sound reminiscent of Disco and House music. Musically, it reminds me a bit of Daft Punk without the robotic, futuristic framework. “Mam Bach” takes things into ballad territory with its chill, summertime vibe. A smooth, melancholy track, it reminds me of something one would hear in a movie during a scene of heartbreak or self-realization. “Ty Baw” shifts into high gear, going back into Punkish, New Wave inspired territory that pays homage to Devo. Next, “A&E” is a unique, haunting presentation of Synth Rock structured around a Minor Blues chord setting, further complimented with some tasteful guitar fills throughout.
“Rhyl” is a ballad with a somber melody and chord structure that incorporates some oddities throughout, including samples of a children’s choir and the occasional bursts of cosmic, spacy synths that nicely contrast with the Nylon string guitar used for the main arrangements. “Dim Jam” is a Hip-Hop oriented track backed by a sparse string section and a square wave lead that carries the memorable melody throughout. “Arianrhod” is a House music style track with a strong bass line, a dominating distorted synth arrangement, and a whirly Rhodes style synth adding the chordal texture in the background over the more subdued vocals.
“Esgyrn dan y Patio” comes in with a more Kraftwerk inspired sound. Arpeggiated synths, a funky drum beat, and more monotone vocals make this one of the quirkiest tracks on Hanner Cant. It’s one of my personal favorites on the album. “Rhy Fuan” is another sublime ballad that captures the feeling of cruising along the coast on a bright day during late Summer. The unique arrangement of guitars, strings, and orchestrally simulated bursts is beautifully done in a way that solidifies my respect for the duo as accomplished musicians. “Damwain a Hap” is a more atmospheric track that begins with a thumping Electropop beat, but later drops out as spoken word, synth bass, and swirly saw wave sounds carry the piece to its conclusion. “Taflenni” is another peculiar track, towing the lines between Hip Hop, Downtempo music, and Alternative music – a Blues-Rock guitar solo that comes in seems out of place at first, but in the end, fits the abstract, non-conventional structure. “Methodist” is an interesting blend of Synthwave inspired keyboard sounds and organic Brit-Pop inspired rhythm section instrumentation. The oddly delivered vocals flow well over the de-tuned synths, which range from jarring to angelic. Finally, “Tybio” ends Hanner Cant on a more Avant-Garde note. Reminiscent of experimental acts such as The Residents, it brilliantly sums up the weird, abstract, and delightfully different nature of Hap a Damwain.
Hanner Cant is a very quirky release with melodic sensibilities, unique genre blending, and impressive musicianship that doesn't come across as too flashy or senseless. It may not appeal to listeners who are used to conventional, accessible mainstream Pop music. Nor will it appeal to people looking simply for pristine, over-the-top musical wizardry. But as one who appreciates all types of music, I highly enjoy the unpredictable songwriting arrangements – not rooted heavily in technical prowess, but clearly rooted in out of the box, ingenious, and cleverly creative experimentation. I recommend checking this album out if you’re looking for something different and are willing to listen with an open mind.