The title of reluctant solo artist may have suited Gruff Rhys once. Having negotiated nearly 10 albums worth of high times and psych-pop brilliance with Super Furry Animals he embarked on a one man outing in 2003 only to declare that he wanted to be the first solo artist to ‘split up’. Now seven years on, he finds himself on the cusp of delivering his third solo effort and having lent his distinctive timbre and lyrical intricacy to everyone from Mogwai to Damon Albarn not to mention the effortless attitude he engineered with chrome plated side project Neon Neon. He’s even found time to make his own documentary Separado about his ancestors fleeing to the sunnier climes of South America which, like most work that Gruff creates, skirts the difficult borders between lighthearted hilarity and poignant thoughtfulness.
The bulk of tonight’s performance is taken from the new album Hotel Shampoo and Separado’s soundtrack with Gruff introducing one track as “the song sang exclusively to a horse in a field”. The Latin influenced rustic finger picking style that is a feature of the horse serenade is a sound sewn through the night from the spooked spaghetti western style of ‘Lonesome Words’ to the lilting beauty of new song ‘I Totally Understand’ which was cut short when a suppressed chuckle escaped his lips during the line “Poland has a large industrial centre”.
His range of influence from obscure Turkish folk singers to industrial noise makers is all here in an albeit strange hybrid, a musical cement mix with the unruly Eastern flavoured ‘Cycle of Violence’ bleeding into the turbo charged ‘Rubble Rubble’.
His table of tricks is then laid out for the hypnotic fuzz of ‘Gwn Mi Wn’, its heavy relentless beat augmented by Gruff looping his sampled voice until it becomes a haze of rhythmic rounds punctuated by his own echoing screams. A quiet night of Welsh folk this is not. Finishing his criminally short set with a reprise of the single ‘Shark Ridden Waters’ replete with tiny toy Casio keyboard plinks and the unyielding hypnotic surfer parp of the Cyrkle sampled tune ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’ this is just an intriguing taster of the beguiling beauty to come.
Photo via Kirstie Cat.