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super furry animals

Still hungry, still furry.

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Coffee. This, according to Guto, is the secret of Super Furry Animals’ longevity. “We’ve never had an enormous record,” he says more thoughtfully. “All our records have sold better than the last one, but it’s never got totally out of hand and become proportionally stupid. It’s been comfortable.”

Phantom Power is the Super Furry’s sixth proper album and it’s already being touted as their best. It’s certainly their most relaxed, without the electronic excesses of their last album. “We learnt a lot about computers doing Rings Around The World,” says Guto. “But this time we wanted to make it a little more human.”

super furry animals 'phantom power'

It’s the first album that the band have engineered themselves, a long held ambition, recorded in their Cardiff office-block based studio. “We had a lot of fun doing it because having an engineer you just sit back, but this time we got a lot more involved.” This included improvising soundproof booths by building tents in the office corridors once its inhabitants had left for the day. “We didn’t really know what we were doing: we’d record a guitar and it’d sound rubbish and we had to figure out why. So we started experimenting with different tent designs. In the end it was the wigwam that was easiest to put up and sounded best.”

As with their last album, Phantom Power is released as a DVD, complete with animations and surround sound. “If we hadn’t done it, Rings would have felt like a gimmick and we don’t feel it was,” explains Guto. “We think the surround sound medium is interesting and worth pursuing.”

The DVD isn’t as film-based as Rings. This time, abstract visuals accompany the full-length album. “We wanted people to concentrate on the music and what’s coming out of the speakers. Pete Fowler’s designed a wallpaper that very slowly morphs. It’s the kind of thing where you look away, then you look back at it and it’s changed. But you’re not sure how it got there.”

super furry animals 'phantom power'

Many of the songs are in DAD-tuning stemming from Gruff’s original idea for a ten-song cycle in the same tuning. Sounds like a concept album. “That’s a dirty word,” grins Guto. “I’ve got too much punk rock in me to have any kind of respect for conceptual rockers. We don’t like constraining ourselves and if you’ve got a concept, you’re doing that. And we had some other really nice tunes so we just chose the best songs. And we’ve got the other 45 songs to record in the future…”

And this is the point. After six albums, the Furries are still hungry to experiment musically. Does he consider them to have been successful? “If it was all to end tomorrow, I think we’ve left some cool albums for people to get into for decades.” And Phantom Power is one of them. Matt Walton 18 July 03

Super Furry Animals - Phantom Power, released 21 July 03 on Sony.

guto recommends:
goldie lookin’ chain – newport’s answer to so solid crew.
edam – hip-hop by people who are creative with words, and take pride in lyrical prowess.
missy elliott – but i hear it so often i don’t want to buy it.

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