Gruff Rhys

Gruff Rhys

pang[ pang ] noun a sudden feeling of mental or emotional distress or longing: a pang of remorse; a pang of regret a sudden, brief, sharp pain or physical sensation; spasm: hunger pangs.

Pang! Is a Welsh Language pop album, with a couple of verses of Zulu and an English title.

Pang! Developed unexpectedly over about 18 months. A solo album of songs by Gruff Rhys. Produced and mixed by South African electronic artist Muzi.

Gruff Rhys on Pang!:
I met the producer Muzi during the recording of the Africa Express track Vessels in Johannesburg in early 2018.
Combining the cut up guitar of South African guitar legend Phuzekhemisi and his own beats, I got to spend a memorable time with members of BCUC figuring out some melodies and lyrics for Muzi to record over his beats. Occasionally things were going so well that he would burst away from his computer screen, out of the door and embark on a celebratory lap of the weird Motel compound we were recording in. The pace was fast and it was one of the most joyful recording experiences I’ve ever had – in my experience if you’re having fun in the studio it’s usually a very good signifier for the health and rigour of the music – even with emotionally heavy songs. Pang!
A few months later I was involved in a recording project where I live in Cardiff, Wales for a video installation which involved incredible dancers from the cities’ Butetown Carnival and local musicians such as the Balafon player N’famady Kouyaté. They needed to dance to my track so I sent it on a whim to Muzi to remix. He sent back the finished track, (a Welsh Language song called Bae Bae Bae – English for Bay, Bay, Bay ) as if from a distant future. I was astounded by the song’s transformation – I suggested we make a whole album. Muzi responded that he would be interested as long as all the songs were in Welsh. Pang!
I continued to record songs in Cardiff at producer and percussionist Kris Jenkins’s Studio, Wings for Jesus and invited N’famady back with his Balafon along with Cardiff based American drumming legend Kliph Scurlock and the brass player Gavin Fitzjohn. Over a few months we gradually cut an album by stealth during my kids school hours and sent the results to Muzi. Pang!
I felt I had somehow found a way of combining my clumsy trad Spanish guitar songwriting with something resembling progress or even experimentation. I love pop music and a good tune – but I’m also drawn to the repetitive and dissonant. A cook friend pointed out that it’s all about Sweet and Sour. Continually trying to figure out how to bridge that canyon keeps us going. Pang!
In between these occasional recording sessions I had embarked on an American tour, the highlight of which was a tourist visit to Prince’s old studio and home, Paisley Park. It turned into a pilgrimage for me – with my fellow musicians I listened to Prince’s back catalogue on Kliph’s hi-res player the entire way from the East Coast to Minneapolis. It seemed to wake me out of the bad funk of a decade of dour ballads. (I stand by the ballads – but sometimes need a holiday). Pang!
Visiting the gloss of Prince’s democratic music palace confirmed in me that my move into day-glo processed pop with this record was justified and in particular, albums like Around the World in a Day (and in particular the title track) became a reference point for attempting to make psychedelically joyful, internationalist and deeply personal digital pop music. Staring at Prince’s ashes in a Perspex box perched next to a cage of live doves on a cloudy blue sky mural backdrop was an unexpected and moving moment. Pang!
Muzi was touring in Europe last March (2019) and came to Cardiff to sift through the tracks with his producer hat on and we mixed an early version of the album and even did a bit of sight-seeing. Sometimes like on Eli Haul he would leave songs alone – often simplifying them further. On occasion he would jump to the mic and join in with some vocals. Some songs he would take a loop of a particularly interesting section, build a beat and rework the song from scratch and by the song Ôl Bys / Nodau Clust – which we mixed by coincidence following a conversation about Daft Punk and industrial music, Muzi completely takes over, scrapping my bad bossa guitars, only retaining the original’s vocals. In that sense it’s a kind of remix album where adventure is favoured over predictability and where the radical remixes are the finished articles. Pang!
By the way the lyrics deal with the negative pangs amongst the joy of daily life (Pang!) radioactivity in Cardiff bay,(Bae Bae Bae) , digital community happenings (Digidigol), the snail’s pace of inspiration (Ara Deg), Sun Screen abstraction (Eli Haul), navigating the fog of lies that is mass media misinformation – in a car (Niwl o Anwiredd), life in a storm (Taranau Mai), surveillance culture head-fucks (Ôl Bys/ Nodau Clust) and that my mouth is a house for my teeth (Anedd i’m Danedd). Pang!
Muzi returned to Johannesburg and stayed up for a couple of days and nights giving the album a final sheen and here it is. A short sharp album, a pang of positivity that jolted me personally out of the omni-present political gloom and out of my musical coma. Pang!

Anna Burch

Though the deceptively complex pop of Quit The Curse marks the debut of Anna Burch, it’s anything but the green first steps of a fledgling new artist. The Detroit singer/songwriter has been visible for the better part of her years-long career singing in Frontier Ruckus, or more recently co-fronting Failed Flowers, but somewhere a vibrant collection of solo material slowly began taking form.

Growing up in Michigan, her fixation with music transitioned from a childhood of Disney and Carole King sing-alongs to more typically angsty teenage years spent covering Bright Eyes and Fiona Apple at open mic nights. By 18 she was deep into the lifestyle of the touring musician, juggling all the regular trials and changes of young life while on a schedule that would have her gone for months on end.

After a few whirlwind years of this, exhausted and feeling a little lost, she stepped away from music completely to attend grad school in Chicago. This respite lasted until 2014 when she moved to Detroit and found herself starting work in earnest on solo songs she’d been making casual demos of for a year or so. Friends had been encouraging her to dive into solo music, and one particularly enthusiastic friend, Chicago musician Paul Cherry, went so far as to assemble a band around scrappy phone demos to push for a fully realized album.

“Writing songs that I actually liked for the first time gave me a feeling of accomplishment,” Burch said, “Like, I can do this too! But working with other musicians and hearing the songs go from sad singer/songwriter tunes to arranged pop songs gave me this giddy confidence that I’d never felt before.”

The process was drawn out and various drafts and recordings came and went as the months passed. By now Anna was playing low key shows and d.i.y. tours solo and had released some early versions of a few songs on a split with fellow Detroit musician Stef Chura. Even at a slow, meticulous pace, with every step the album took closer to completion, it felt more serious and more real. After a more than a year of piecemeal recording sessions, Anna was introduced to engineer Collin Dupuis (Lana Del Rey, Angel Olsen) who helped push things energetically home, mixing the already bright songs into a state of brilliant clarity.

The nine songs that comprise Quit The Curse come on sugary and upbeat, but their darker lyrical themes and serpentine song structures are tucked neatly into what seem at first just like uncommonly catchy tunes. Burch’s crystal clear vocal harmonies and gracefully crafted songs feel so warm and friendly that it’s easy to miss the lyrics about destructive relationships, daddy issues and substance abuse that cling like spiderwebs to the hooky melodies. The maddeningly absent lover being sung to in “2 Cool 2 Care”, the crowded exhaustion of “With You Every Day” or even the grim, paranoid tale of scoring drugs in “Asking 4 A Friend” sometimes feel overshadowed by the shimmering sonics that envelop them.

“To me this album marks the end of an era of uncertainty. Writing songs about my emotional struggles helped me to work through some negative patterns in my personal life, while giving me the sense of creative agency I’d been searching for.”

Emerging from years spent as a supporting player, Quit The Curse stands as a liberation from feeling like Burch’s own songwriting voice was just out of reach — an opportunity, finally, for the world at large to hear what’s been on her mind for quite a while.



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