Y Côd Da Vinci
(Strategic Tape Reserve)
German cassette label Strategic Tape Reserve self-identifies as ‘weird’, but even among their eclectic catalog, there are releases that stand out as being truly bizarre. One such example is Gwasg Gelert’s Y Côd Da Vinci, likely the label’s oddest entry since last year’s Nordic-walking compilation. If STR in general is niche, Y Côd Da Vinci is über-niche, but still liable to scratch the über-itch of the true Übermensch.
Breaking the album down in simple terms, it features what is said to be excerpts from the lost Welsh-translated audiobook version of Dan Brown’s 2003 mystery thriller The Da Vinci Code over sparse and eerie electronic soundscapes. Some tracks border on dance music (the release is referred to as ‘cosmic disco’), most will make you feel unsafe, as if there were a stalker lurking in the shadows waiting to stab you and sacrifice your blood in offering to the Pagan gods. The narrator, again, reads in Welsh with a salacious, almost erotic quality to his delivery: remove the language difference and it’s like being trapped in the Red Room with Serge Gainsbourg. It’s unclear whether he wants to kill the listener, fuck them, or just tell them a highly abridged version of a best-selling novel in a language only about one-fifth of the population of its country of origin knows (yeah, people from Wales don’t generally speak Welsh, Welsh is barely a thing). Maybe it’s all three. His activity is minimal: his presence ever-looming.
This one is cool as hell, but we’re not even going to begin to pretend that this is going to be for everyone, and certainly not for those who appreciate immediacy. Y Côd Da Vinci is its very own Da Vinci Code, with its very own conspiracy-fueled ‘backstory’ and intentional barrier after intentional barrier placed in front of the listener to keep them at a distance. It’s an album completely beholden to a multi-faceted yet narrow gimmick, but compelling because of it. It’s an immersive experience, if a frequently puzzling one, which was likely the intent all along. We encourage an attempt at cracking the code, with the understanding that you, much like Langdon, may find yourself in the Rosslyn Chapel wondering “Wait, how did I get here and how does any of this make any sense?”.
Favorite track: “Thema Sophie”
You can purchase Gwasg Gelert’s Y Côd Da Vinci (as well as read about the album’s absolutely mad ‘backstory’) here.