Gruff Rhys - 'Babelsberg'

7/10

Since his initial outfit Super Furry Animals have remained largely silent for the best part of a decade, frontman Gruff Rhys has used his solo career as an excuse to continue his creative journey and as he has moved on, seems to have gotten more ambitious in recent years. While his solo work to date has been a sometimes minimal and focused affair, the crooner has adopted the help of the 72-piece BBC National Orchestra of Wales to add some lift and grandeur to his fifth full-length 'Babelsberg'.

While strings and a sense of otherworldly horns have always been a part of his material on previous records, the addition of such a large backing group on this release certainly lifts his songwriting into a new realm. While there are times when the singles try to focus on his own guitar playing for pace and direction, it isn't long before the orchestra makes their entrance in the production and turn almost every cut into a progressive and swelling affair, building ever more to a climactic ending that only sometimes reaches the overdramatic.

It certainly has a far different sound to what we are used to from Gruff Rhys but one that we feel suits his style of mild psychedelic pop-rock. His knowledge of an album's structure allows for more sombre moments to soften the often overzealous points on this album, making for an highly engaging listen that keeps you on your toes throughout.

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