Gruff Rhys – Pang! (4 stars)

Gruff Rhys – Pang!

Another intriguing step from one of indie's great innovators

A decade has passed since Super Furry Animals released their last album Dark Days/Light Years but Gruff Rhys continues to be a relentless creative force. Following hot on the heels of 2018's orchestral triumph Babelsberg, Pang! is yet another intriguing step from one of indie's great innovators.

The lyrical content of Babelsberg addressed tyranny, socio-political uncertainty and environmental fears both directly and metaphorically. On the face of it, the largely Welsh-language Pang! shies away from making big direct statements but Rhys' decision to collaborate with the South African electronic artist Muzi naturally invites us to consider the joys of working with people from other cultures; the partnership is a thrilling one. The polyrhythmic two-punch of the opening title track and 'Bae Bae Bae' hustle and bustle like a busy marketplace, with Gavin Fitzjohn's frantic brass adding to the excitement.

Pang! also contains the poppiest thing Rhys has recorded in the last decade and possibly ever, 'Ara Deg (Ddaw'r Awen)', which wouldn't have been out of place on the last two Vampire Weekend albums. It's a song that begs to be played over and over again; with interweaving, hook-laden melodies and a bouncing groove that's reminiscent of Animal Collective at their most whimsical. It's up there with his career highlights.

The most enjoyable songs on Pang! are the boldest; after 'Ara Deg' the album settles into a more stripped back place with 'Niwl O Anwiredd', 'Eli Haul' and 'Taranau Mai. They feel less adventurous coming after that opening run, a point reaffirmed by the closing 'Annedd Im Dannedd', which sends Pang! out with glorious fanfare. It could have been interesting to hear a whole record's worth of Rhys and Muzi really doubling down on the links between Cardiff and Johannesburg, but as it is, Pang! is another marvellous collection from one of the best songwriters of his generation.

Out Fri 13 Sep on Rough Trade.

Gruff Rhys

The frontman of Super Furry Animals presents original solo material of the indie-rock persuasion.