Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Candylion - Gruff Rhys

Candylion, the latest musical offering from Gruff Rhys, is a joyous celebration of hybridity and cultural cross-pollination.

A female voice starts things off by intoning This is Just The Beginning. It's the kind of intro that Italo Calvino would have been proud of.

Candylion is the first tune proper and the album's keynote song. Rhys trys out various odd juxtapositions: penguin and carnation, lemon and dalmation but it's candy and lion he likes best. Playful and melodious Candylion puts you firmly in touch with your inner child.

The combination of the ancient and the technological is a bit of a Gruff Rhys lyrical trademark so it's no surprise to hear references to mythology and magnetometers in The Court of King Arthur. And it's always nice to hear songs about archaeology.

Next up is Lonesome Words the most elegaic track on the album. It has a brooding Spaghetti Western feel and a great string arrangement. Cycle of Violence introduces the album's salient philosophical theme: that harmony and tolerance are better than strife.

Painting People Blue is a psychedelic/jazz hybrid that references Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase. Beacon in the Darkness has lots of lovely harmonies and at some point morphs into a country and western song without you noticing.

Con Carino is in Patagonian Spanish which I don't speak but as we all know music is an international language so I'll translate for you anyway: it's lovely. Rhys and a female vocalist croon at each other across a Velvet Underground backdrop.

The current single is Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru (Drive Drive Drive) which is, oddly enough, a driving song. Not any old driving song mind but one with the hood pulled down and what sounds like the whole of Rio de Janeiro breezing by. If God really existed this would be at Number 1 in the hit parade.

Now That the Feeling Has Gone is reminiscent of early Super Furry Animals psychedelia with some Girl from Ipanema jazz drumming mixed in. As for Ffrwydriad yn y Ffurfafen (Explosion in the Sky) it's an insidious Welsh-language cosmic delight.

If you happen to be searching for the perfect expression of the Welsh post-modern (and let's be honest who isn't?) then look no further than the concluding track Skylon! This 14 minute lyrical masterpiece is set on an aeroplane and taps into hijack-neurosis and celebrity culture. It's a perfect summation of the album: playful, absurd, experimental and post-modern (there's a 3 point deconstruction of the narrative in the middle of this song!). And once again it is a plea for tolerance or as Gruff Rhys himself would say: "now we're in this shit together... let's let each other live."

Candylion, available on Rough Trade, is on sale now.