Thursday, July 21, 2016

Super Furry Animals at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Gruff Rhys
Based in Cardiff, Wales, actor/vocalist Rhys Ifans, bassist Guto Pryce and drummer Dafydd Ieuan performed as a techno group in the early 1990s. Guitarist Huw Bunford and keyboardist Cian Ciaran (Ieuan's younger brother) joined, Gruff Rhys replaced Ifans as vocalist/guitarist, and the band became Super Furry Animals in 1993. Mixing soft pop and folk with ambient sounds and angular solos, the band was labeled as psychedelic pop and gained an underground following. In 2010, after nine cult-favorite albums, Super Furry Animals began a hiatus. In 2015, the band reformed for several concerts, including the 4knots Festival in New York, to promote a reissue of the 1990 album Mwng, which had been out of print. Since reforming, Super Furry Animals has released only one new song, "Bing Bong," writtem to celebrate the Wales national football team's qualification in the UEFA Euro 2016.

Headlining tonight at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom, Super Furry Animals performed on a dimly lit stage fitted in white hazmat suits. Rhys occasionally wore an oversized helmet that made him look like a Power Ranger, and barely spoke to the audience, instead choosing to communicate via signage that read "APPLAUSE!", "LOUDER!", and "THANK YOU." With no new album to promote, the band performed a comprehensive retrospective. The songs were backed by looped film clips (bombs dropping, a figure skater skating, a newborn shrieking) and kaleidoscopic geometrics. The sound was experimental music that captured a rhythm. Hypnotic grooves were laced with flighty synthesized layers, as if Radiohead had been joined by Brian Eno. Elements of trip-hop framed some of the songs, while some of the songs that were sung in Welsh recalled a folkier root and others gravitated into swirling looped feedback. After these seemingly wayward ventures, the songs often circled back to more traditional rock sounds with melodious refrains, only to veer off into space again. Far from mainstream music, the experimentation and the challenges presented in Super Furry Animals' odd song structures were designed for the most adventurous music tastes. The concert ended with the musicians dressed in long wigs and super furry yeti costumes for the last song, then Rhys holding up signs reading "FIN", "THE END" and "RESIST PHONY ENCORES."

Visit Super Furry Animals at www.superfurry.com.