Heddlu Releases “Cantref” LP

For essentially being an intro track and nothing more, “Descensionist” gives us a chilling welcome to the tracklist of Heddlu’s Cantref this August that I would compare to no other moment in the record, including those of equally spellbinding cosmetic power. “Cantref Gwaelod” is where some sense of stability is established on the instrumental and lyrical ends, but after just a couple of minutes in Cantref, there’s really no turning away from the potent show of affection and angst combined inside of Heddlu’s brutish musical delivery. Compositionally speaking, he’s going out on a limb with a lot of these ideas, including the electro-punk of “Locker,” but if you look at the mundanity of his competition, the reach towards left-field artistry makes a lot of sense indeed.

“Daw Eto Haul” is the point at which all allusions to post-punk and art rock become outright tributes, and it’s in this song’s best moments that Heddlu can break away from the AV Super Sunshine-types of the world and develop a sound that does stand on its own. There’s a touch of Turn Me on Dead Man-influenced vocal layering and Stone Roses-esque psychedelic hues to be found around a couple of this record’s corners, such as the midsection tunes “Benthic,” “Reset,” and the aforementioned “Daw Eto Haul,” but never does it sound like we’re listening to the drug-addled ravings of someone determined to redefine what the alternative model is supposed to sound like. This artist leaves that nonsense to the posers – after all, he’s trying to make something original here.

“Auto-Da-Fe” has an industrial spirit that is just begging to be let out of its cage, but there’s never a clear space for this track to find its identity outside of the pop lens it’s performed through. The grit and the grime sewed into the bones of this song, specifically on the lyrical execution front, could have gained the lion’s share of the spotlight if the instrumentation wasn’t as pristinely presented in the mix as it is, but much as the case in “The Not Knowing” and “Mouth Goes Dry,” fundamental contrast is one of the most important themes of what Heddlu is constructing in Cantref. Balance is one thing, but highlighting extremes through decadence is much edgier (especially being that no one else seems to be doing it in 2022).

With the larger-than-life “SMS” and more passive outro “(Ar)Nofio,” Heddlu’s presence lingers in the air even as the music starts to fade into oblivion and Cantref comes to a conclusion, which is something that a lot of artists can only hope to accomplish when making their debut album. This is a project that, in all honesty, I can envision going in a lot of different directions depending on how its star mastermind wants to proceed, but if he’s sticking with experimentalism, I haven’t any doubts as to whether or not critics like me are going to keep Heddlu in the headlines for some time to come. As an alternative to the mainstream, and really as an indie release in general, it just doesn’t get much richer and sharper than Cantref.

Jennifer Munoz

Vents Magazine