Tresor (Treasure) is Gwenno Saunders’ third full length solo album and the second almost entirely in Cornish (Kernewek). Written in St. Ives, Cornwall, just prior to the Covid lockdowns of 2020 and completed at home in Cardiff during the pandemic along with her co-producer and musical collaborator, Rhys Edwards, Tresor reveals an introspective focus on home and self, a prescient work echoing the isolation and retreat that has been a central, global shared experience over the past two years.
Tresor diverges from the stark themes of technological alienation in Y Dydd Olaf (The Final Day) and the meditations on the idea of the homeland on the slyly infectious Le Kov (The Place of Memory). Accessible and international in outlook, peppered with moments of offbeat humour, Le Kov presented Cornish to the world. The impact of Le Kov was resounding, providing for the Cornish language an unprecedented international platform that saw Gwenno touring and headlining in Europe and Australia, and supporting acts such as Suede and the Manic Street Preachers. Her performance of ‘Tir ha Mor’ on Later with Jools Hollandwas a triumph, and the album prompted wider conversations on the state of the Cornish language with Michael Portillo, Jon Snow, and Nina Nannar. After Le Kov, interest in learning Cornish hit an all-time high, and the cultural role of the language was firmly in the spotlight.
On Tresor, Gwenno shifts focus from the external to the internal, and onto the journey of rediscovering oneself after the life-changing experience of becoming a mother. It is an exploration of desire, of reclaiming one's body after childbirth, of working out how to exist as yourself as well as caring first and foremost for somebody else. Inspired by powerful woman writers and artists such as Ithell Colquhoun, the Cornish language poet Phoebe Proctor, Maya Deren and Monica Sjöö, Tresor is an intimate view of the feminine interior experience, of domesticity and desire, a rare glimmer of life lived in and expressed through Cornish. Tresor evokes the waters that shape the Cornish experience, whilst being musically far reaching with influences spanning from Ryuichi Sakamoto to Eden Ahbez and William Basinski. As psychedelically tinged as her previous work, Tresor embeds found sounds ranging from Venice to Vienna, layering cultural and historical atmospheres, decoupling the use of Cornish from any geographic determinism, allowing for an expression of imaginative spaces that are truly free.
Although Tresor is a project birthed from introspection and intimacy, the implications of the messages are much broader. Ultimately Gwenno is asking what are other ways of understanding and being in relation to one's self and to one another? What are our roles in both shaping and being shaped by the cultures we move in, in a world that is ever changing, and where we all have a place? Tresor does not provide easy answers, for Gwenno shows us that we exist in paradox, our threads of place and story entwined like knotwork, our many selves shining as beautiful entanglements.