Gruff Rhys, former front man with Super Furry animals has a new solo album coming tomorrow! (21st May) ‘Seeking New Gods’ and there’s a really lovely tune from that at the end of this piece.
I’ve followed Gruff’s work in and out, from the wonderful ‘American Interior‘ from 2014 the lead song of which certainly caught my attention, while it was also a book and film (as well as an app) that followed Gruff’s story in the steps of his ancestor John Evans whom in the late 18thC left Wales for the unknown wilds of America to find a mythological ‘lost Welsh speaking tribe’ rumoured to have been spawned from 11thC explorer Madoc. The Guardian even managed to sneak out a good feature just on the basis of the app.
‘I knew it from the start that one day we’d depart to a new world…’
A book with a real ear for story and a beautiful meeting with the last remaining speaker of the Native American Mandan language. Here’s another angle from channel 4 news. It was this kind of work which confirmed (if needed) that Gruff is a fascinating artist, engaged in adventures of exploration and production across different spaces and media, wedded to stories and geographies (psycho-/real) there was also a 2010 film ‘Seperado!‘ that followed his journey to Welsh speaking Patagonia to find a long lost Welsh singing Patagonian uncle.
Just the other day, I found this lovely short doc on the making of Super Furry’s first album 1996’s ‘Fuzzy Logic’ which had beautiful songs and broke the band out…
In the meantime, below another short doc on how he made his last album 2019’s ‘PANG!’ and how he came together with Afrian producer Muzi. A great story for some fascinating sounds. For Gruff, such a seasoned and well crafted artist to talk about the excitement of the approach Muzi brought, feels genuinely of inspiration. I had omitted PANG! but look forward to checking it on vinyl, especially after encountering the quicktaneous allure of the title track.
Whilst from the track ‘Bae Bae Bae’, its clear Gruff has managed to be part of something that makes a connection between music Welsh in language and implication with something genuinely inspired from the sonic worlds of African pop, between High life, South African choral music and the indiginous tones of balafon, while even mixing in a horn section that wouldn’t be amiss on something laid back from Fela back in the day. How very very beguiling…!
In fact Bae Bae Bae has the feel of an absolute unmitigated pop gem. The song that as they explained crystalised the possibility of their collaboration and instigated Gruff to suggest they work together on the album that became PANG! Its a song that reveals itself in replaying, layers and layers of luch, spacey verdancy, a brutally minimal bass that transports you – a totally danceable platform of joy!
Back a bit further still, in what has been a vividly developing output is this track from the 2018 ‘Babelsberg’ album, which had a re-touch with new versions in 2020; ‘(Don’t) Welcome The Plague As A Blessing / The Babelsberg Basement Files’.
Meanwhile Gruff’s exogenous melodic facility is at the fore on this track which will be part of the new album. A song that uses female vocals to create a haunted but positively charged, sonic fluoresence.
Super Fa Realities (a previous piece on Gruff/SFA, that was also partly about a previous piece on Gruff/SFA).