RECORDIAU ANKST RECORDS – HANES BYR
1988 – 1998
Cyhoeddwyd yn y ffansin Foggy Notion, 1997
In 1988, Welsh Pop, with a few notable exceptions, (Anhrefn and Ofn Records), was for the most part limited to choirs of old men and harps, and re-releases of wartime Welsh tenors. Hardly the ideal background to the launch of a new independent record label. Not to be perturbed, two students at Aberystwyth University formed a shaky partnership and Ankst was born.
For its formative years survival was on a shoestring budget, waiting for releases to sell out before being able to plough the small profits back into the next. The early days saw cassette only releases, progressing to 7″ e.p.s and eventually a host of 12″ singles. Although sales of Welsh pop releases continued to be abysmally low, there was a certain amount of interest and a definite potential. Eventually Ankst set up as a full time business and moved down to Cardiff – and two became three.
The Summer of 1990 saw the debut 12″ release from female pop duo Y GWEFRAU (THE THRILLS) and dance posse TY GWYDR (GLASS HOUSE/GREEN HOUSE).
Also Wales’s most popular guitar band Y CYRFF (THE BODIES) signed a combined management/recording deal which led to Ankst’s first national press coverage when their debut album LLAWNEYDD HEB DDIWEDD (UN ENDING JOY) reaches the NME’S ON Page. Unfortunately by the time the insular London centric music press had picked up on the splendour of Y CYRFF they had split up, leaving their epitaph, a compilation cd MAE DDOE YN DDOE (YESTERDAY IS YESTERDAY). (Core members Mark Roberts and Paul Jones would later return to form CATATONIA with Cerys Matthews, but that’s another story…..)
Leaving the damp ridden spiderhole that was the Ankst office/bedroom, July 1991 saw a move to a proper office in Penygroes, North Wales. Ankst was growing and the releases kept on coming.
Interest was generated when long time Peel faves, DATBLYGU were signed and an LP of their PEEL SESSIONS was released. By now John Peel was a big fan playing all the new releases generating substantial growth in mail order requests.
Despite their blinkered and often bigoted outlook the NME started giving regular reviews and the Ankst roster of artists steadily grew to include most of the best Welsh language bands. During this period a string of dance related releases were unleashed from techno band TY GWYDR , dub rappers LLWYBR LLAETHOG (MILKY WAY), commercial house from DIFFINIAD (DEFINITION) and ambient techno from WWZZ.
Ankst also cornered the guitar pop market with BEGANIFS and FFA COFFI PAWB. BEGANIFS were the wunderkids of 1992 releasing two cassette albums of top pop music whilst still at school while FFA COFFI PAWB became the foremost band in Wales, only to split up after releasing two classic albums on Ankst CLYMHALIO and HEI VIDAL, although there would be more to come from certain band members as they later followed the path taken by Y CYRFF and reformed as SUPER FURRY ANIMALS.
In the summer of 1993 Ankst released their first GORKY’S ZYGOTIC MYNCI record and fideo PATIO/JYST FEL Y FFILMS and started work on building up a new roster of talent including the mind boggling beauty of ECTOGRAM. The GORKYS were indicative of a new spirit and flew the flag with their album TATAY which was cannily recognised by the music papers as an album made for a world stage and not just for consumption in Wales only.
By 1994 momentum was gathering and the magnificence of the SUPER FURRY ANIMALS was unleashed. After two e.p.’s in 1995 on Ankst the band were signed to Creation Records and the rest, as they say, is history, with their debut album reaching number one in the independent charts and their singles firmly lodging themselves in the top twenty.
Meanwhile GORKY’S ZYGOTIC MYNCI continued to release material , including the outstanding BWYD TIME album which went to number one in the independent charts (and stayed there for a whole month). They also toured constantly with an unforgettable tour in 1995 to Japan, where they were besieged by a whole army of crazy pop fans. They released three albums and numerous e.p.s and singles on Ankst before signing a world wide deal with Mercury Records in 1996.
Somewhere in the middle of this activity Ankst once again moved – this time back to Cardiff where the plan was to release even more records and look after management duties for the SUPER FURRY ANIMALS and GORKY’S ZYGOTIC MYNCI.
ECTOGRAM released their debut album I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S NOT REGGAE in July 1996 to much critical acclaim. The 14 track bilingual collection included fierce improvisations, sharp pop, and some seriously unhinged stuff. They soon ended up sharing a stage with amongst others PAVEMENT, BECK and FAUST(who managed to set them alight !)
Legendary dub-rap pioneers LLWYBR LLAETHOG (MILKY WAY) also turned up with a new album of tecnodub stormers entitled MAD!
Later on in 1996 Ankst introduced a new generation of Welsh bands with the release of S4C MAKES ME WANT TO SMOKE CRACK VOLUME 2 – A various artists compilation featuring MELYS, TOPPER, DAVID WRENCH and RHEINALLT H. ROWLANDS. The mythical RHEINALLT H. ROWLANDS followed this up with an album entitled BUKOWSKI in November. Rheinallt was the alter ego of Owain Wright and Dewi Evans. They had been performing since 1991 and early recordings included a cover of Joy Division’s NEW DAWN FADES, sung in Welsh, which was eventually released on the Ankst compilation album TRISKEDEKAPHILIA.
MELYS were next to issue their own e.p., entitled FRAGILE. The bilingual release was a commercial sounding pop release that was tempered by bitter sweet lyrics that sent shivers down the spine.
TOPPER’s debut ARCH NOA e.p. gained critical acclaim for the latest in a long line of teenage sensations coming out on Ankst. The three piece from PENYGROES quickly followed this up with a mini album SOMETHING TO TELL HER which quickly drew a lot of attention.
In 1997 singles were released by MELYS (Cuckoo), LLWYBR LLAETHOG (Mera Desh), DAVID WRENCH (Black Roses), and ECTOGRAM (Eliot’s Violet Hour) and DAVID WRENCH presented his post apocalyptic party album BLOW WINDS BLOW which brought a chill of winter into high Summer.
Ankst also went on the move in June with a UK tour featuring TOPPER, ECTOGRAM, RHEINALLT AND DAVID WRENCH.
At long last bands from Wales started getting serious attention with bands like the MANIC STREET PREACHERS being joined by CATATONIA, GORKY’S ZYGOTIC MYNCI, SUPER FURRY ANIMALS and the 60FT DOLLS in the weekly rock mags.
Late in 1997 Ankst had come to a crossroads, with the decision being taken to split into two complementary but separate companies – ANKST MANAGEMENT (responsible for managing SUPER FURRY ANIMALS, GORK’S ZYGOTIC MYNCI and MELYS) and ANKSTMUSIK RECORDS (releasing records from the Welsh music scene).
1998 saw the production of the Ankstmusik television film documenting the Welsh scene over the last 15 years. The programme was produced to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Ankst Records and paved the way for new releases in 1999 from Ankstmusik records.
LABEL OF LOVE: ANKST
Celebrate the Welsh indie stable that ruffled the feathers of the establishment and put Super Furry Animals on the map . By Owen Adams – guardian.co.uk, Thursday 6 May 2010
Singing in your native tongue can often be a protest in itself. But in 1980s Wales, as English-owned holiday cottages were razed and English signposts defaced, the prevailing soundtrack of harps, choirs and traditional folk songs just wasn’t enough for a new generation of militants.
Hence the emergence of Ankst, which fostered indie, dub, psychedelia, hip-hop, house and many other subgenres within Y Sin Tanddaearol (the alternative scene). Founded at Aberystwyth University in 1988, the label faced indifference and often hostility from the Welsh establishment for deviating from the conservative fare found at eisteddfodau (national festivals) broadcast by S4C (the Welsh-language channel). In fact, the broadcaster sent a stern letter to Ankst founder Emyr Glyn Williams after failing to see the funny side of a compilation titled S4C Makes Me Want to Smoke Crack.
But the label did have one supporter – John Peel tirelessly championed its artists over the course of the next decade. “Peel was crucial in allowing Ankst to disregard critics within Wales who opposed our musical and his support allowed us to believe in our desire to take music further than just the next protest meeting,” Williams explains.
“As far as we could see, this new experimental scene was the only creative force in Welsh-language culture. Within the general ‘closed shop’ nature of that culture, music was the only part of it that was actually open to us. These new bands seemed to be looking out of Wales and didn’t sound like the Welsh music of the past.”
Ankst started with a low-key cassette release by satirical singer-songwriter (and fellow student) Neil Rosser, who drove the length and breadth of the country, depositing five copies in each of the 12 Welsh-language record shops. The label stuck to its policy of signing no two acts that sounded the same and soon attracted an array of individualists, chiefly Datblygu (Development), seen by many as the Welsh Fall, and Llwybr Llaethog (Milky Way), who made Welsh-language hip-hop, acid house and dub reggae from a council flat in Peckham, south London (they have since relocated to Cardiff).
Label co-founder Alun Llwyd, who at 19 became the leader of the direct-action Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society), spent six months in prison for trashing a Conservative Party office. Yet when Ankst decided to release music in both English and Welsh a couple of years later, they found themselves at war with nationalists. “The new generation of bilingual musicians were attacked within Wales as being traitors in some way,” says Williams.
But in embracing the English language, Ankst prepared the ground for one of the remarkable success stories of the 1990s: the “cool Cymru” scene (a term disregarded in Wales in much the same way as trip-hop is in Bristol). Although the phenomenon was chiefly represented by mainstream acts such as Manic Street Preachers and Stereophonics, bands including Catatonia, Super Furry Animals and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci put Welsh music on the map. These three groups started out on Ankst before heading to bigger labels, and it was the latter who marked a turning-point for Welsh pop in terms of acceptance outside Wales.
“Gorky’s operated in isolation more than any band I’ve ever known,” said Williams. “When we got them they already had three albums recorded. They inspired other people to think harder and raise their game. They’re the most naturally talented group I’ve come across.” Ankst’s modus operandi was managing artists as well as getting as many cheap recordings out as possible. Williams says: “They were just kids, they couldn’t drive, but we had the back up and resources to tout them around and tour. We released three albums and six EPs within a few years.”
In 1997, Ankst split in half, with Alun Llwyd and third partner Gruff Jones managing acts from a Cardiff office, while Williams moved north to the Anglesey village of Pentraeth to run the label as a one-man-band, signing angry hip-hop politicos Tystion, and epic-pop bleepers Zabrinski, among numerous others. From 2000 onwards, Ankst moved into film-making, winning a Bafta and ICA residency for the bilingual Y Lleill (The Others) in 2005. “Unsurprisingly,” Emyr said, “it found little favour with the conservative Welsh establishment, which it fingered for its acceptance and promotion of a narrow and bigoted version of Welsh-language culture.” As ever, Ankst remains committed to kicking against the establishment both home and away, whether it be via vinyl, CDs, DVDs or cinema. “There are no commercial considerations,” Williams stresses.
Radio Crymi Playlist Vol 1 – Ankst 1988-1998 (2003)
This 40-track selection is really the only way to get your mind around the vast and beguiling variety of music handled by the label in its first decade. It includes early tracks by Super Furry Animals, Catatonia and Gorky’s alongside more obscure gems. There’s also a second volume capturing the next decade.
The Hunt for Meaning – M C Mabon (2001)
Of Gruff Meredith’s (aka Tystion co-founder MC Mabon) seven albums released so far, this is the masterpiece. A concept album that fuses more genres previously thought possible, it includes a catchy disco track called Iago Prydderch Rejects Irony and Western Metaphysics and another directed at Jamie Oliver, titled Fuck U If U Think U’re Cool, plus a Chinese orchestra.
Skellington Horse – Klaus Kinski (2010)
Due this summer, the debut album from a musically explosive band inspired by Werner Herzog, Bauhaus and mental instability. “A classic Ankst band,” says Williams. “There’s just something about them, and I don’t mean the ringing of cash registers, I mean something far more important.”