Cosmic Dog Fog

Cosmic Dog Fog were sent to planet Earth in its time of crisis, on a mission to assist the awakening of a global community consciousness. They arrived during the first of the great lockdowns in March 2020 and found sanctuary in a strange industrial North Wales town known as Sunny Wrexham.

During lockdown the cosmic duo built up a large online following due to their ongoing theatrical psychedelic, lo-fi casio, space pop live streams. CDF performed on a number of online events exposing their abstract musical experimentation and songs to a wide audience.

CDF finally got to play to people in the flesh at FOCUS Wales2021 and raised the roof! Even Gruff Rhys was impressed filming the Space Party finale thanking CDF on his personal Instagram page after the show.

CDF released their debut single ‘Overgrown’ through ‘Hound Sound Records’ in April 2022 followed by a string of live shows, festivals and ‘Space Parties’ across the UK. With the success of their debut single CDF have secured a string of shows including Gruff Rhys’s festival ‘Ara Deg’ supporting Snapped Ankles, and Llangollen Fringe festival supporting The Turbans.

“That was an astronomical space jam” Gruff Rhys

Baby Brave

Baby Brave are a 4 piece new-wave, noise-pop band from Wrexham, set for a huge 2023.

The Trials of Cato

“One of the real discoveries on the folk circuit in recent times” BBC R2

Deep in the wintry woods of Gog Magog Hill something stirred. New sounds tangled with woodsmoke as The Trials of Cato fused their usual flashing Celtic instrumental interplay with striking new compositions to bring us the follow up to their award-winning debut. Gog Magog is The Trials of Cato’s hugely anticipated second album, released in the winter of 2022.

The remarkable rise of BBC Radio 2 award winning trio The Trials of Cato on the UK folk-scene has been the subject of massive critical attention. Dubbed “the Sex Pistols of folk,” (J Davis) they pay clear homage to the tradition whilst twisting old bones into something febrile and modern, with stomping tunes and captivating stories.

Notably formed in Beirut, Lebanon, The Trials of Cato have blazed a trail like no other since returning to the UK in 2016. Memorable performances across Britain, Europe, and North America led to Mark Radcliffe hailing the band ‘one of the real discoveries on the folk circuit in recent times,’ with their 2018 debut Hide and Hair going on to win the BBC Radio 2 ‘Best Album’ Folk Award. With their latest offering Gog Magog, the ‘Sex Pistols of folk’ (John Davis – Led Zeppelin, Gorrilaz) now present their most daring music to date.

Still flying the flag of folk music, Gog Magog sees the band pull harder than ever on the genre’s familiar frame to create something utterly arresting and modern. Capitalising on their enforced closeting during the pandemic, The Trials of Cato have undoubtedly evolved during this period, boiling down the energy of their early years into a bold new sound. The resulting album presents the broadest spectrum of their collective talents yet, a product of swallowing the folk tradition whole and completely reimagining it in a contemporary context.

Gog Magog is awash with a spray of styles, ranging from neo-traditional interpretations of Welsh language poetry to current-day plague songs, as well as unexpected instrumental explorations of the outer edges of folktronica and trad-jazz. Tying it all together is still The Trials’ appetite for flights of adventure, anchored firmly by quality compositions and fabulous playing.

Band member Robin said: “It has been a long time coming but we are so pleased with the results. Lockdown gave us a chance to really look at what we are about as a band and what music we wanted to create. We wiped the palate clean and each of us challenged ourselves to create as much as we could without outside influences. Our beautiful and sometimes mysterious surroundings helped to realise this album and although we’re now delighted to be back on the road, this was a space in time that certainly created this music. We are so grateful for the loyalty of our fans and we sincerely hope they enjoy Gog Magog.”

The album was recorded by Donald Richard and Sean Boyd at Artfarm Studios in New York State, USA earlier this year. It was mixed by Donald Richards and Jake Charron at SpaceCamp Productions, PEI and mastered by John Davis at Metropolis Studios in London, UK.

Jeffrey Lewis & The Voltage (USA)

“He’s a beautiful anomaly in the modern world and we should treasure him whilst we have his lo-fi, DIY, intricate songs that hold up mirrors to ourselves and the world.” Louder than War

“It’s still astonishing what Jeffrey Lewis can cram into one song. Electrifying. Again” Q Magazine

“Bad Wiring is thick with the evergreen anti-folkie’s charm” Mojo

“it’s his terrific wordplay – sharp, funny, poignant and much more that really dazzles” Uncut

“a true indie rock cult leader” Loud & Quiet

Jeffrey Lewis & The Voltage have more or less perfected a scuzzy and urban style of indie-folk – a 21st Century mash-up of Pete Seeger, R. Crumb and Sonic Youth. A born and raised New Yorker, Lewis has been hard at work in the underground music and art world since the turn of the century – touring throughout the world and releasing eight acclaimed albums on the record labels Rough Trade and Don Giovanni. He is also a widely respected comics artist who self-publishes a comic book series called ‘Statics’. On stage Lewis is backed by his band the Voltage, including longtime collaborators Brent Cole (drums) and Mem Pahl (bass) as well as recent addition Mallory Feuer (violin and keys). The most recent full-length Jeffrey Lewis & The Voltage album ‘Bad Wiring’ was recorded in Nashville, TN with producer Roger Moutenot (Yo La Tengo) and was released November 1, 2019.

Kidsmoke

Kidsmoke’s shimmering brand of dreamy indie-pop has seen them make waves from their native North Wales. With a sync feature on Charlie Brooker’s Netflix series ‘Black Mirror’ already under their belts, along with a ‘Breaking Act’ feature in The Sunday Times, an invitation from Robert Smith (The Cure) to play his Meltdown Festival and a single chosen by Steve Lamacq as one of his ‘6Music Recommends’ tracks of the year, Kidsmoke have gone from strength to strength, captivating audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

Dafydd Iwan

We’re delighted to be welcoming the legendary folk singer Dafydd Iwan at FOCUS Wales 2023.

Adwaith

Adwaith return to FOCUS Wales with a 3rd album in the works and a swell of momentum behind the band following their biggest year to date, which included big shows at Glastonbury, Green Man, and support from the likes of BBC Radio 1, KEXP, and 6Music, culminating in their 2nd album Bato Mato winning the 2022 Welsh Music Prize.

Gallops

Gallops are no strangers to disruption and disorder and have certainly learned how to exploit a long pause. Their tumultuous beginnings, which saw the release of the band’s debut ‘Yours Sincerely, Dr. Hardcore’, a monstrous slab of MIDI-fuelled, outsider rock, were followed by a three-year radio silence. When the band did re-emerge – on the back of their 2nd LP ‘Bronze Mystic’, they did so leaner and with a new sense of purpose and direction.

‘Bronze Mystic’ had moments of soaring post-rock, humming dark ambience and industrial-tinged noise – but was consistently underpinned by the propulsive charge of four-to-the-floor electronic music.

This is the sound and vision that the band took on the road, across the UK, EU, Asia and into the US in 2018/19 – featuring critically acclaimed audio-visual performances at festivals such as Roadburn, ArcTangent and SXSW.

It is this iteration of Gallops that would have continued to break new ground in 2020 – but that was not to be. It was again time to pause, reflect and absorb sounds, art and imagery and transmute these elements into what will be the next phase of evolution for the band with new
releases and shows, slated for 2023

Billy Nomates

If there’s one question that informs Tor Maries writing as Billy Nomates more than any other it’s this: whose voice isn’t in the room? A beacon of brutal truth in an industry built on inconsequential bullshit, the Bristol-based singer-songwriter gives voice to the silenced, the disillusioned, the broken-hearted, and the burnt-out, assembling brilliantly biting dispatches from the fringes of a society mired in austerity, inequality and insularity. Or, as Maries puts it, with trademark bluntness, “There’s too much music in theworld already, so everything I make has to count.” “Make everything count” might just as well serve as Maries’ creative mantra. From the impactful imagery powering her soulful and bleakly humorous songwriting, to the economy of sound she achieves with her defiantly DIY approach, there’s not a superfluous detail in the entirety of Maries’ output as Billy Nomates so far. It’s this very combination of authenticity and searing insight that made 2020’s self-titled debut such a revelation, winning Maries admirers such as Iggy Pop, Juliette Lewis and Florence Welch. And as she prepares to release the excellent follow-up, CACTI, Maries is more focused on her mission than ever.

SQUID

NME review: ‘Squid’s debut album is a dazzling debut of wild experimentation’ ***** NME

Squid’s debut album is the connected product of five people who’ve been able to streamline all their thoughts, energy and creativity into one thing: creating an album of towering scope and ambition.

The five piece – consisting of Louis Borlase, Oliver Judge, Arthur Leadbetter, Laurie Nankivell and Anton Pearson – met in Brighton in 2015 whilst at University. Connecting over a love of ambient and jazz, they began playing together at a local jazz café.

TVAM

Listening to musical auteur Joe Oxley talk about his TVAM project is a wonderfully thrilling and illuminating experience. Ideas, concepts, themes, explanations… all are rapidly fired off; each view sparking another opinion, each assumption provoking a fresh thought.

Given the events of the last two years, coupled with the fact that TVAM’s second album, High Art Lite is ready to explode – literally if you gaze upon its provocative Pop Art-inspired cover – Oxley, unsurprisingly, is brimming with hypotheses. Whereas his first album, the wildly inventive Psychic Data – where the spirit of post-punk, electro rock’n’roll did battle with the hypnotic rhythms of Krautrock – focused on the unknown influences over our surrounds and the information that permeates our unconscious, High Art Lite has a wider, more colourful, although no less disconcerting, remit.

“This focuses on influences we readily consume and ideas we consciously lean towards,” Oxley explains, “and how these drive us both publicly and privately, often pushing people’s world views towards absolute positions.”

According to Oxley, High Art Lite centres upon the stories, characters and beliefs we absorb and how we latch onto these ideas to guide us through our lives.

“It’s also about how easy it is to feel so far away from our heroes,” Oxley expands. “The weight of our own expectations. The sadness at the core that, as we age, our options narrow, the universe shrinks, and we find ourselves in the shallow end.”

To the untrained eye – and ear – such a description might sound overly verbose. Too theoretical. One might expect an album weighed down by the heft of its own meaning. In reality, you couldn’t be further from the truth. From its playful title and unapologetically boisterous cover artwork to the barrage of sounds contained therein, High Art Lite is a joyous and euphoric listen. Granted, it’s ambitious and unafraid to take on lofty conceits, but it does so in an irreverent and spirited manner.

“Some people described Psychic Data as brooding and bleak,” Oxley recollects. “That there was a coldness to it. And I found that weird. I’ve never felt my music was cold. There are repetitive moments and that brings a certain hypnotic feel. But there’s a touch of humour and satire there too. In my head, at least, my music is halfway between the soundtrack for Threads (the definitive 80s dystopian apocalyptic war drama) and Vic and Bob. It’s small-scale satire.”

Written before, during and after lockdown, High Art Lite is unquestionably a giant leap forward for Oxley as a musician, writer and artist – lest we forget, the visual performances he incorporates into his live shows featuring a TV running long-forgotten video, is just as important to TVAM as the music. The new album is more expansive. More immediate. Livelier.

Writing with a band in mind has shifted the aesthetic. Oxley notes how the rhythms are more in line with live drums than the drum machines that powered his first album. Likewise, the electronics. They’re still present, but in Oxley’s mind they now occupy a different space and support a distinctive mood. Fundamentally, and without any audience feedback to bolster or inform his songwriting, his perceptions of his music have changed. “The pandemic didn’t influence the writing,” he says, “it just changed the circumstances. And it was only in the last month or so of writing that I realised that the songs hung together, in and of themselves.”

The end result is a refreshingly bold and accessible album. Clocking in at just under 40 minutes – the pop music sweet spot – the album treads a beguiling line between blissful harmonies (think the Beach Boys or Mercury Rev), crunching noise pop (Suicide, Velvet Underground, Loop) and a childlike innocence reminiscent of Boards of Canada and Cocteau Twins.

The opener, Future Flesh, sets out the album’s stall immediately. A swirling, crepuscular organ unfolding into a Kaleidoscopic kosmische groove. Every Day in Every Way is equally vibrant. A glam rock, electro boogie that Bolan would have killed for, it sees coruscating guitars duelling with symphonic synths. The nocturnal instrumental Shallow Ends hints at an alternative – and more sinister – soundtrack to Miami Vice; while the anthemic Double Lucifer is Heroes-era Bowie if he’d recorded in Los Angeles, rather than Berlin.

Elsewhere, Say Anything begins with a comforting, gauze-like splendour before being ripped asunder by jagged guitars and Piz Buin is a shimmering affirmation of Lauren Laverne’s apposite description of TVAM’s music resembling Spiritualized taken to the club. The album is both visceral and melancholic, drifting wonderfully across dream pop, shoegaze and synth-pop without ever permanently calling one camp its home.

As the song Piz Buin hints at, notions of holidays and leisure are apparent – sometimes literally, other times as more of an abstraction. But it’s always about pushing things as far as he can. Take Piz Buin for example – it’s a sun cream advert. But it’s also about the notion of too much leisure; too much free time – an idea that was prevalent during the first few months of lockdown in 2020. “There’s a touch of the film Sexy Beast in there and JG Ballard too,” he admits. “You know, when he was writing Cocaine Nights. Gated communities, that kind of thing. I’m interested in those things. Leisure, but with a really sort of dark undercurrent.”

Much like TVAM’s first album, the concept of nostalgia is never far away either. But not nostalgia as a means of providing succour to escape a horrible present – an emotional balm or crutch. Rather misplaced nostalgia and the half-forgotten memory. “Obviously since the internet there’s been this ability to easily bring back elements of your childhood, indeed a shared childhood,” he says. “I find that quite interesting because that’s when it gets weird. It’s whether your own personal experience of that time gets mixed up with other people’s. And what does that do for your understanding of yourself?”

Hence some of the sounds on the album – particularly the synth and keyboard sounds from the late 80s and early 90s that were used on UK TV shows at the time. Digital synths like the Roland DX-7, D-50 and Korg M1.

“I remember hearing those sounds watching TV in our living room and they always transport me back there.”

He continues: “I think there’s also a bit of repressed emotion and sadness in the mix, too. I find I’m more emotionally vulnerable watching a ‘weepy’ than I am in response to real events. I’m interested in whether this reaction is simply me responding to well-crafted filmic moments and I have more capacity/safety to feel an emotional response to a specific scene, or whether it’s simply a chance to vent my own underlying emotions. This occurrence isn’t always about sadness – there’s some of this that ties into wish-fulfilment and searching for positive emotions through fictional characters.”

According to Oxley, the myths of Hollywood’s Tinseltown play a big role in creating these tales. As such, an outsider’s view of LA acts as the spiritual location for the album.

And while Oxley describes the album as ‘musically-led’, the vocals, and the moods they add are just as vital. He describes the fluid textures of the vocals as akin to advertising – more subconscious, where elements shift into the next, providing an opportunity to reflect upon things without being direct or straightforward.

“I think in some ways you can actually arrive at more illuminating conclusions by having that space,” he explains. “When I write it’s very visual in my mind’s eye. I’m not a purely musical person and what I recognise is that in playing music and doing those things the visuals in my mind become clearer and stronger. I enjoy that pairing of music and visuals. It isn’t a purely musical experience for me to write a song. I’m almost daydreaming of a particular place. And when that’s locked in, the music catches up.”

Another progression has been signing to Invada, the Bristol indie, founded by Geoff (Portishead and BEAK>) Barrow and Paul Horlick. Previously, Oxley controlled everything, releasing his music himself. But signing to Invada was an exciting opportunity he couldn’t turn down.

“It felt like the right time,” he reflects. “I was a fan of the label before anything arose, so it was a comfortable move. I recognise the label’s ethos in supporting its artists.”

As for the album’s alluring title, Oxley says it describes the act of making art (in the broadest sense) in a tabloid world, where ideas are simplified and understanding isn’t the aim, rather polarisation. Art that exists within narrow confines, but with the motive of maximum impact.

“In a sense,” Oxley concludes, “it’s the idea of concentrating things. And that ties in with how the album is more colourful and vibrant in certain ways. It’s like it’s been compressed and condensed.” More ideas, more concepts, more theories: Welcome to the world of TVAM’s High Art Lite…

The Coral

Since their debut EP release in 2001, The Coral have sold over a million UK albums. Their self-titled debut received a Mercury Music Prize nomination and the band have had five Top Ten UK albums including 2003’s chart-topping ‘Magic and Medicine’. During their career they’ve had eight Top 40 singles include the hits ‘Dreaming Of You’, ‘Pass It On’ and ‘In The Morning’. Last year they released their ninth studio album, the critically acclaimed ‘Move Through the Dawn’, proving The Coral are one of the most consistent bands in the UK thanks to their knack for crafting great songs and frontman James Skelly’s powerful vocals.

Delta Ladies Choir

The community choir of community choirs! Award winning and good times only. These ladies bring it!

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