Hen Ogledd's new album Mogic is out today. By my money it's one of 2018's last capital-g Great records, a perplexing, fascinating, eye-opening, inscrutable, accessible, incomprehensible exploration of mythology, mysticism and machine learning; an examination of English (and Welsh) folklore and language, and its correlation to the remarkable and terrifying progress with artificial intelligence. Boldly original and deeply expressive enough to capture the attention of MIT professors, but I'm here for the songwriting, man. For those melodies, those hooks, those vocal harmonies. It's often gorgeous, sometimes disturbing, always precise and confident. This is a truly special record, and it's genuine bona-fide privilege to get some thoughts from its creators Rhodri Davies, Richard Dawson, Dawn Bothwell, and Sally Pilkington.

Let’s start with the name, Hen Ogledd, Welsh for “The Old North”, the connection of Welsh language with a mythic north is loaded with connotations, where did the title originate?

Rhodri: I’m not sure how nor when the name morphed from the title of our first album into the name of the group. I think the original idea was to have the title of the first album as the name of the band for the second album and then the title of the second album as the name of the band for the third album and so on. But we clearly forgot to do that.

“Concept album” is quite a rote descriptor, but Mogic constitutes the term to some degree; how difficult is it to marry theme and melody, especially when theme is so vital to a record like this?

Rhodri: I don’t see Mogic as a concept album: it is borne of friendship, otherness, love, mutual understanding, openness, humour and generosity. It is a multi-themed, multi-voiced, collectivist and if anything a multi-concept album.

Richard: It's not really a question of marrying theme and melody - those things are intertwined and one things suggests the other as it emerges. Music doesn't have a start or an end, it exists in a much realer sense than we do, outside of time. So it's not a question of difficulty either - just patience.

This correlation between folk mythology and digital mysticism; how did this idea emerge, and then develop for you?

Dawn: (British) history is a point of interest. Alternative narratives that have dropped out of thinking around nationality.. I think it’s important to recognise older sources of technology and how they were used to pass on political and spiritual messages. Like on ’Transport and Travel’ Looms are discussed spinning the Paisley Pattern which is a actually the Zoroastrian Buta - freelance weavers were also very politicised workers they gathered around weaving technology working together, discussed the news and politics.

Divorced from the artistic relationship you explore here, what’s your opinion on the moral political consequences of AI and machine learning’s increasing proficiency and influence in our lives?

Dawn: Mostly we have written about our experience as individuals or that of pseudo characters, rather than taking on big political themes. For example, First Date is about the experience of going on a blind date and already knowing everything about the person because you can just look it all up online through google, Facebook, etc. I was thinking about how much investigating people do when they meet people on dating apps, and how this changes a first encounter, our relationships with each other.

The album is poppier than I expected; is this linked to the explorations of AI’s futurism – and those affiliations with synths/distorted vocals etc – or a simpler interest in making something poppy? Or something else entirely?

Sally: Rhodri made the first mention of the word pop and we all jumped on it. I really liked the idea of making something fun and uplifting, and I think this was independent of the themes that we were talking about, although they definitely go hand in hand very nicely!

The stylistic u-turns between songs, from shoegazey-pop harmonies to more conventional folk or rock, is effectively jarring; how much of this is enabling the voices of each band member to express themselves versus a conscious sequencing for the record?

Richard: The music expresses itself. Part of that is through some of our choices but elsewhere it expresses through accidents, or coincidences, friendship and practice.

Sally: We each wrote couple of songs which we shared before getting together to record. So we prepared some ideas for what to bring to them, but sound of each song only really took shape when we recorded, which was threw up lots of nice surprises.

What was it like having your work written about by an MIT professor?

Richard: Fox is a beautiful guy. I received a letter from him the day before we started recording the album. Given that we had been working on this music about Artificial Intelligence, games and robots it seemed like an amazing omen to get this letter out of the blue from a professor of AI. It's very kind of him to write these words about Mogic, I get the feeling he HAD to write something, an impulse. Although our practices are very different I think we're probably asking the same kind of questions, maybe in different languages. I'm grateful. Fox is a very gentle, fearsomely smart, generous spirit.

What’s in the future for Hen Ogledd?

Richard: the music will decide!

Mogic is out now via Domino Records on all streaming services.