Boundary-pushing comes naturally to Gruff Rhys. For his seventh solo album, the biography of a mountain, he has been exploring the limitations - or not - of how his music is recorded and transmitted. This goes back to his touring days as Super Furry Animals lead vocalist, but is very much here and now too, updating quadrophonic experiments to make an album compatible with multiple devices.
Rhys' best solo album, 2011's incredible Hotel Shampoo, began a run of loose-themed concept albums, culminating in his most bizarre to date: Seeking New Gods is inspired by Mount Paektu - the mountain on the Emblem of North Korea, which holds immense mythological value to Korea and China. So far, so Gruff. Though this is a solo album, Rhys is accompanied here by long-time collaborator Kliph Scurlock (once and most famously of The Flaming Lips ).
Gruff Rhys could have been a schoolteacher--one of those unconventional educators who regale students with skits about historical oddities and scoff at standardized testing. The Super Furry Animals singer's academic interests are as eclectic as the freewheeling Welsh band he spent most of his adulthood fronting. That's been particularly clear since 2008, when Rhys began digging his way out of a songwriting rut with biographical albums about historical figures.
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.