Wales may not be receiving physical visitors due to COVID restrictions but, thankfully, this does not preclude sending music out into the world and that’s what the small, but perfectly formed, Libertino Records have done with MÊL. The label has an eye for talent having the likes of Adwaith and Accü on their books.

‘Cusco’ is the third single from MÊL and signals their move from being collaborators to a fully formed “proper” band. They are Rhodri Owen, Morgan Jones and George Amor with help from Eryl (Pearl) Jones and contributions from musician/producer Llŷr Pari and poet Geraldine Mac Burney. The title comes from a trip to Cusco, a city situated in the south east of Peru which was the capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th century until the Spanish conquest in the 16th-century.

The song opens with a moody hollow-log-sounding bass line which develops a hazy, mystical atmosphere that feels like the soundtrack to a transcendental or shamanistic ceremony. It has the kind of haunted shimmer in its production reminiscent of a 60s track by the Animals track mixed in with the benign menace of Theatre of Hate or Velvet Underground. This release is a 3’ 27” radio edit but the sound of ‘Cusco’, and it’s captivating pace, would easily sustain a longer version.

The mix of sweet and savoury creates an overall sonic umami which is really appealing. To me it’s a journey that starts with tentative steps, treks its way to the destination where you can hear the ululation of people dancing round a fire pit or the glowing inter-dimensional portal that is depicted in the surreal cover image. There is even a ‘spirit’ voice (which I assume is poet Mac Burney) adding another, ethereal dimension to this ayahuasca-fuelled journey. However, I hope the real destination for MÊL is an album in their future and MÊL can count on me for a semaphore dance around their inter-dimensional portal.

Available now through Apple Music, YouTube Music and iTunes

Review by Paul F Cook

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