The sheer consistency of Gruff Rhys’ is something to be marvelled. A genuine treasure, his solo career has already produced a slew of impeccable full length projects, tackling everything from folk lore to the experiences of the Welsh diaspora and beyond.
‘Seeking New Gods’ is more Gruff, then, but that’s never a bad thing. Recorded in the Mojave Desert at a studio recommended by Cate le Bon, the bulk of the material was seemingly written on the road, with ideas sketched out alongside his ‘Babelsberg’ touring outfit. As such, ‘Seeking New Gods’ is a brisk, consistent set, one that leans on Gruff Rhys’ imaginative melodic flair while also allowing for bold studio flourishes.
Ostensibly a concept album about the life and decline of a real-life volcano, it opens with the sprightly ‘Mausoleum Of My Former Self’, a song that matches Mariachi trumpets against Chicory Tip synths without seeming even a little ostentatious. ‘Can’t Carry On’ is a delicious piece of psych-pop, while ‘Loan Your Loneliness’ is a thumping piece of glam-pop that wouldn’t sound out of place on the flip of a pristine single by The Sweet.
As ever, Gruff’s word play is little short of exceptional. ‘Hiking In Lightning’ is a jagged two-step that permits a vocal which feels almost stream of consciousness, while the rather more considered ‘Everlasting Joy’ bristles with feeling. Indeed, the title track contains some of the album’s most memorable couplets, it’s mantra-like pace failing to extinguish the songwriter’s surreal wit.
Ending with the plaintive, piano-led ‘Distant Snowy Peaks’, this is an album that seems to pack ideas into every available crevice. Its brevity might lead some to think it slight, but those who persevere with ‘Seeking New Gods’ will find yet more evidence of Gruff Rhys’ undaunted off piste genius.
Words: Robin Murray
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