Candylion sees him taking his muse to new heights; presenting it in a way that is more ebullient, more self assured.
Gruff Rhys – Candylion
What can you say of Gruff Rhys? Troubadour par excellence? Genial trickster? Maybe... what can be said is that whilst his first LP Yr Atal Genhedlaeth, was essentially a solo, exploratory conversation (and an delightful one at that), Candylion sees him taking his muse to new heights; presenting it in a way that is more ebullient, more self assured. I truly think that we have yet to see the best of Rhys as a creative force; he's trying out this psychedelic folk vision for size, feeling his way still. He's joking with us in some way on the sleeve & booklet artwork, Mr Rhys caught in the full creative act, building his Candylion from carefully pruned cardboard segments.
In some ways there are moments on this LP where you could say (when stretched to answer definitely on this LP and, of course, full of the confidence-giving properties of wine) his vision is a pastoral version of the Velvet Underground; certainly the 14 minute long song, Skylon! is as close as you are likely to come to an acoustic version of Sister Ray. Con Carino sounds like a drugged snippet from Waiting for My Man.
You do get the familiar set of beautiful melodies and odd lo-fi; and more, for what Yr Atal Genhedlaeth lacked was a take on those broad Super Furry-tuned pop horizons (witness Now That the Feeling Has Gone). Lonesome Words is a beautiful sub Morricone pastoral, and Painting People Blue is a deliciously camp question-and-answer backing vocal riposte. It's a restless set in some ways, as both Cycle of Violence with its up tempo rhythm and sharp strings hints at.
The Welsh language tracks are some of the best of these short pop songs; Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru is just brilliant with a driving rhythm (again, somehow very Velvetsy) and weirdly balanced out with some John Shuttleworth-style keyboard effects. The taped phone call amidships is a deranged but brilliant idea. Ffrwydriad yn y ffurfafen is a more melodic (and successful) take on Cycle of Violence's restless spirit. But it's Skylon! which steals the show; rather like Mother Sky on Can's Soundtracks, it eclipses everything around it and is the track that sticks in your head. A mini trip in an LSD-soaked plane, Skylon! keeps breezing along, never letting up on its drugged groove. It's a hilarious story too.
A great piece of work and well worth checking out. But you don't really need me to tell you that.
Words: Richard Foster