- 11 Jun 18
Orchestral fifth solo album from chief furry.
To call Babelsberg a 'solo album' would be a misnomer. While it was written and performed by Gruff Rhys, the Super Furry Animals frontman roped in long-time musical cohorts, drummer Kliph Scurlock (formerly of The Flaming Lips), as well as multi-instrumentalists Stephen Black and Osian Gwynedd.
The collaboration doesn't end there. Rhys sat on these 10 songs for 18 months, waiting for Swansea-based composer Stephen McNeff to pen orchestral scores for each track, which were then played by the 72 members of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
The result is a gorgeous, sumptuous affair that comes across like Richard Hawley fronting the Count Basie Orchestra, or Jarvis Cocker jamming with Cole Porter.
Lead single Frontier Man is as catchy as a cold in a creche, Rhys doing his best Welsh Scott Walker impression, on a musical hike through the California desert. The swirling psychedelia of Limited Edition Hearts comes complete with a spiralling falsetto chorus that's impossible to hear without humming along to.
Oh Dear is frenetic, galloping pop with a decidedly '60s feel: think Austin Powers without the irony. The Club, meanwhile, soars in on sweeping strings, as the Welsh indie king tries his tonsils out as a crooner, narrating a tale of being ejected from a nightclub with all the dramatic flourish of War & Peace:
"They threw me out of the club/ The club that I built with my own two hands/ They threw me into the street/ Into the street where the gangs hang".
Named after a town he encountered on a 2014 tour and evoking the biblical Tower of Babel, Babelsberg is one of the finest albums Rhys has ever produced, with or without the rest of the band.
Out June 8, rating: 6/10