After 10 inventive albums with his Cardiff combo Super Furry Animals, two with his side project Neon Neon, five solo efforts and film soundtracks for his own development company, Welsh rocker Gruff Rhys thought he’d explored every last sonic frontier on the horizon.
He was wrong, to the point where he was pleasantly surprised by the Welsh-language material on his new recording “Pang!” as reimagined by Muzi, a South African producer who heard more nuance in Rhys’ work than the artist himself did.
“There are pictures of my usual bleakness still in there. But this was a really joyful record to make,” says Rhys, who appears at the Chapel this weekend.
Indirectly, Rhys has his old chum Damon Albarn of Blur/Gorillaz renown to thank for “Pang!”
As part of his ongoing Africa Express exploration of world music, Albarn had flown his friend to Johannesburg in 2018 for a recording session that teamed him with local indigenous combo BCUC and Muzi, who took a keen interest in Rhys’ native-language material.
“When Muzi sent me the finished track a few months later, I was really excited to hear what he’d made,” says Rhys. “It was as if he’d posted it back from the future — my kids just loved it, and they were all dancing around the house.”
Rhys had one assignment pending at that point — a track called “Bae Bae Bae” for Cardiff’s Butetown Carnival that he had yet to nail.
Curious, he forwarded it to Muzi, who tweaked the guitar by jagged cutup method, then added a summery tropical backdrop until it sounded dramatically different.
The number not only made the final cut for “Pang!,” it motivated Rhys to fly Muzi to Wales for a full album session, which lasted two wild weeks.
“It was like a remix record, except I was there, as well,” says Rhys. “Muzi would only keep my vocal and the guitar as a backbone before cutting up the brass section or sampling that guitar, then completely changing the key from major to minor. I was amazed —he was improving everything.”
Rhys says the record has Welsh songs at Muzi’s requested, and that he just happened to have several on hand, unrecorded.
He adds, “When I write, I don’t set out to write in one particular language. And although my first language is Welsh, I’m just obsessed by English language and culture, as well.”
Rhys’ next projects include two movie soundtracks, several albums’ worth of road sessions and a 20th anniversary edition of the Super Furries’ 1999 classic, “Guerilla.”
“I just feel lucky to still be around making records after all these years,” he says, contentedly.
IF YOU GO
Where: Chapel, 777 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $18 to $20
Contact: (415) 551-5157, www.eventbrite.com