Gruff Rhys: Babelsberg review – Sonic sorcery from the Welsh wizard
Since 1993 Gruff Rhys has been making mind-bending, genre-blending psychedelic rock with Super Furry Animals, arguably the last great band Alan McGee signed to Creation Records.
Rhys has never been content to sit still, and Babelsberg is no less than his fifth solo album, named after an obscure European town in the back arse of nowhere that Rhys stumbled upon while touring.
The lead single and opening track, Frontier Man, gently introduces Gruff as a Welsh sonic sorcerer doing country pop, complete with lush strings and backing vocalists cooing along, but also interrogating the whole notion of the modern cult of personality in the process.
Rhys’s solo work is much more pastoral than the full-on SFA sensory overload that initially made him famous. This very contemporary album functions as a sonic gazette of modern times over 10 songs and 40 minutes.
He also chips in a surprising but extremely effective duet with Lily Cole on Selfies in the Sunset. Babelsberg might not the best album Rhys has made, but it is a fine addition to a prolific canon of work from a remarkably consistent and singular singer-songwriter.