Tired of writing about himself, the songs on Gruff Rhys’ seventh solo album were all inspired by events relating to North Korean volcano Mount Paektu. Recorded with the same band that featured on 2018’s Babelsberg, it was put together as they toured America. On their drive, it evolved into more of a West Coast road album, with the volcano becoming a metaphor for Rhys himself and the times we’re living through.
There are vague references to “the constant rumble” and “looking for truth and wisdom” but it isn’t an overtly political album. Allusive rather than specific, it comfortably sits within his solo and Super Furry Animals back catalogue. ‘Loan Your Loneliness’ and ‘Can’t Carry On’, in particular, are as concise and pop-orientated as he’s ever been, with their stomping psych influences and soft-rock harmonies.
As the album progresses over the course of nine tracks it starts to become more freeform and experimental. ‘The Keep’ is peppered with free-jazz brass; ‘Hiking In Lightning’ is loose garage rock with a Velvet Underground-inspired piano line; ‘Everlasting Joy’ unravels through a sprawling yet concise psych jam. The record never erupts into something truly unexpected, but it offers comfort in its golden melodies.