Tylwyth Teg Releases a Solid, Sonically Mischievous Debut LP
After whetting our appetite with Splatter, a five-song EP that made our list of Top 20 2020 releases, Audrey Reynolds — the one-woman-band known as Tylwyth Teg — expands her reach with Hydromatic Static. This ambitious Tylwyth Teg debut plays around in the indie pop sandbox while refusing to color within the lines.
From the jump rhythms of the sprightly opener “Seal It” to the loping mid-tempo psych rock closer “Cinnamon and Doubt,” the nine tracks of this Tylwyth Teg debut are infused with a youthful playfulness that’s impossible to fake. It’s not all fun and games, though even the songs that tend to be more reflective (the ’90s-leaning acoustic lament “End up far away,” the stealth drone of “You’ve never met me”) are sonically mischievous. During “I am you,” for example, the gently strummed electric riffs reminiscent of Robyn Hitchcock in solo mode gives way to a muted banshee wail while Reynolds belts a lyric that’s a sly nod to the blisses of empathy. When she hits the top of her range, she just says fuck it and momentarily caterwauls before the mad acceleration that takes the song to its end.
There’s an abundance of treasure within Hydromatic Static, beginning with Reynolds’ voice, which — when in full flight — is as clear and charged as the young Siouxsie Sioux (and nearly as death-obsessed; e.g., “Knots”). She’s uncanny in her ability to match her phrasing to the contours of a tune. The angst beneath “You’ve never met me” echoes the protean psychotic intensity of Throwing Muses’ frontwoman Kristin Hersh; the indie joyride of “Tightly Strung” brings to mind the much-loved (by me) L.A. band French Vanilla. And “Rewind, Decline, Outnumber” marries breezy indie Tropicalia to the scratching herky-jerky of prime ’80s cheese (Haircut 100’s “Love Plus One,” say; or Total Coelo’s “I Eat Cannibals”). I’d also suggest other indie bands study how Reynolds employs echo here on the vocals — they’d find the balance between the use of that indie pop trope in service of the song and those who just slather it over everything until all you can hear is the cavernous emptiness of the sound.
The only problem here — and it’s no problem at all — is that the surface pleasure of Tylwyth Teg’s music has kept me focused on the sound to the detriment of what — if anything — Reynolds is trying to impart to us. This isn’t to suggest there’s no meaning here. “Knots” isn’t merely death-obsessed, as I mentioned above, but concerned with the anxieties of existence (it’s damn near metaphysical); “My rose tree” encompasses birth, death, decomposition, renewal. Heavy subjects, to be sure, though all delivered with a light, sure touch that should be the envy of her much older peers.
On Hydromatic Static, Reynolds has begun the process that’s been part of the world since day one: the student who surpasses her teachers. She’s not quite there yet, but this is an impressive first step.