His name, like so many others in the non-stop swirl of emerging producers and DJs coming out of Europe, sometimes floats under the rocks. Ifan Dafydd, improbable to pronounce with 100 percent accuracy, much less certainty, has been slipping through the ranks of the continent’s best up-and-comers, sporadically dropping James Blake-esque singles through the past two years.
Months before Amy Winehouse’s untimely death, the mysterious Welsh producer released “No Good,” a splashy retake of her celebrated single, “You Know I’m No Good.” Dafydd’s uncommon vocal recalibration, which he has shown a penchant for in the years since the release, is all over the map in the track. The wide range of manipulation allows him to orchestrate a terraform beat, not simply relying on monotone bass crunches and spiraling keyboard harmonies. The song is a valley; simply beautiful for standstill moments when Winehouse’s untouched soul bravado sinks in, and then a crescendo into dark vocal harmony. The latter of which, as a clear inspiration, is much lauded by fellow British producer Burial.
Unlike his fellow mysterious producer counterpart, Dafydd doesn’t play with rain-soaked rhythms. Burial’s endearing takes stem from his claustrophobic urban aesthetics, using sounds that resemble guttural harmonies from broken street corners, drowning in a sea of itself. Dafydd, rather, brings an aching sense of light to the material with his vocal sample styles. In “Celwydd” (Welsh for “Pizza”), one of his more recent track releases, for example, the low-hanging slowed samples play more of a minor role compared the delicate foreground of vocal loops.
The tight structure, which is strikingly similar in “No Good” and “Celwydd,” is where the aforementioned Blake and Burial comparisons sink in. As it is with most artists with severely limited material, it’s hard not to find a recognizable pattern quickly. However, the hallmark of an act on the slight verge of breaking is having the ability to flash different colors, opening possibilities of variety. Shortly after the release of “Celwydd,” Dafydd debuted “Llonydd.” Both tracks appear the Recordiau Lliwgar (Welsh for “Colorful Records”) Y Record Las compilation, with “Llonydd” finishing it off.
Rather than effectively stamp his minimalist Eurostep style, “Llonydd” features fellow Welsh vocalist Alys Williams to give the track a broader, more human vocal concept. If the name is oddly familiar, Williams was actually a contestant on a recent episode of “The Voice” in the U.K., singing Mumford & Sons’ “The Cave.” Her very apparent accent was a defining uniqueness that Dafydd seemed keenly fond of, allowing it to shine equally alongside his crafty mechanics.
The welcome airiness and consistency in his work could mean something of a meaningful future. However, moving forward will only come with more original material, something Dafydd is, unfortunately, severely lacking at this point in time. But with the distinct possibility of more on the way, it’s hard not to see Ifan Dafydd’s difficult-to-pronounce name being thrown around more and more.