Gruff Rhys' new album Babelsberg is a ten-song gazetteer of our modern times. Each song is set to timeless, indelible melodies, and, amazingly for a record that lyrically pulls a very sharp focus on the times we’re living in, it was recorded in a feverish three-day session two and a bit years ago.
“I initially wanted to make a document of the songs I’d done for Candylion show (2015’s eye-popping immersive musical theatre show produced in conjunction with National Theatre Wales). I got offered some dates from Ali (Chant, producer of 2014’s American Interior) before his studio was demolished. I quickly found out who was in town, rounded them up and drove them in van where we recorded the whole thing in three days – mostly new songs and not the Candylion ones. I didn’t end up playing anything to anyone for a year.”
The three men Gruff herded into the back of the van were drummer and Super Furry Animals archivist Kliph Scurlock (ex-Flaming Lips drummer) and multi-instrumentalists Stephen Black (Sweet Baboo) and Osian Gwynedd (“They’re amazing musicians, so it was just a matter of capturing them.”); the ten songs they worked on were then sat on for twelve months during which time Gruff wrote and recorded possibly the only positive argument for remaining in Europe (the beautifully realised one-off paean to unity I Love E.U.), released the overdue soundtrack to 2014’s Dylan Thomas biopic, Set Fire To The Stars and made a fascinating short film about a failed Communist utopia while on tour of Siberia (The History of Nails).