Album | Gruff Rhys – Seeking New Gods

Inspired by the ancient Mount Paektu, Gruff Rhys’ latest solo album finds him exploring fertile territory while remaining both familiar and fresh.

The Super Furries’ frontman has ploughed a rich and varied seam under his own steam for 15 years. Seeking New Gods, recorded pre-pandemic as his band toured the US, follows his Welsh-language LP Pang but shares more in common with 2013’s travelogue American Interior and its successor Babelsburg.

With Seeking New Gods, there’s a musical coherence and invention brewed via gig after gig by Rhys’ tight touring band, including concrete-solid ex-Flaming Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock. Structurally sound yet curiously playful, its nine tracks stretch to 42 mins, sewn together with the constant swirl of a Solina synth.

Rhys’ visionary songwriting and sharp ear for melody, informed by a concoction of West Coast rock, German electronica and cosmic soul, emerge brightly from the shadows of his SFA canon. Plotting a perilous mental and geological path through these apocalyptic times, images of lava, rubble and explosion loom, Rhys singing of “hanging on by your fingernails” in ‘Can’t Carry On’ and “walking a tightrope in slippery flip flops” on the glam-stomping ‘Hiking In Lighting’.

‘Loan Your Loneliness’ is as near to unvarnished pop perfection as you’ll hear this summer, Scurlock’s motorik-meets-Status Quo rhythms bouncing to Stephen Black’s single-note bass lines and Osian Gwynedd’s chunky piano, leading to a searing Rhys guitar outro.

But perhaps the coup de grace is the album’s wonderful misty-eyed closer ‘Distant Snowy Peaks’, an hypnotic ballad which could just as easily soundtrack sci-fi galaxies as the frozen fields it depicts. Its fluttering effects build over Rhys’ keening vocals, scaling the pinnacle of his most evocative sonic adventure so far.