Review Summary: A lesser-known triumph of the folk-prog genre.
The countryside, particularly the more bucolic regions of the United Kingdom, has served as the inspirational setting for many outstanding works of artistry, both literary and musical. Haul Ar Yr Eira
, the debut record of Pererin (Welsh: Pilgrim), is one such masterwork. Recorded in a cow shed near Caernarfon in North Wales and released in 1980, the album is one of the most stirring folk-rock records to come from the UK.
At the tail end of the 1970s, the newly-formed quintet of folkies, set out to interlace Welsh folk traditions with tinges of the 70s-era progressive music explored by Pink Floyd, Genesis, and Barclay James Harvest. For the most part, their effort was a resounding success. This set of 10 songs, sung entirely in the distinctive Welsh tongue, pay tribute beautifully to times gone by whilst employing regular forays into more electric territory to retain that 70s edge.
Artwork adopted from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress
denotes the band’s founding theme that “we are all visitors, like pilgrims, traveling through this world.”
Stunning contributions from Nest Llwelyn (ex-Bran) lend the layered vocal arrangements a fervent yet delicate quality. The numerous instrumental segments are defined by dancing flutes and ringing guitar solos presented with Mike Oldfield-like sensibility.
Song styles range from steel-stringed harp pieces ('Hiraeth Y Mor') to more upbeat numbers that alternate fluidly between acoustic and electric passages ('Liongau Caernarfon', 'Royal Charter'). 'Gloyn Byw' feels reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s unplugged moments, complete with majestic guitar solo and soaring female vocals. Other highlights include the firm backbone of 12-string guitar in 'Dechrau Y Gan', the catchy refrain of 'Can Y Melinydd', and the foot-tapping vocal breakdown that brings the deceptively balladic 'Ni Welaf Yr Haf' to a gallop. 'Pan Ddaw Y Brenin Yn Ol', a miniature prog masterpiece, carries the album to its finale on an ethereal bed of piano, bombastic rhythm and pointed electric guitar before dissipating beneath a hum of passing cars and singing birds.
Gwerin Records, a small folk/pop label based in South Wales, released the original pressing of the album in a run of approximately 1,000 copies, some of which were almost immediately lost in an office fire. The surviving copies have since become highly sought after collector’s items. Fortunately, subsequent pressings released in 2005 and 2009 have helped to make this little-known gem more readily available to lovers of the pastoral, driving folk-rock that only the rural reaches of the UK could inspire.