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Jonathan Wright listens in as Gruff Rhys discusses his new album Babelsberg, an orchestral pop piece charting our edgy times…

At Kellys Records in Cardiff, a debate is taking place. Its subject is a white-label single unearthed in one of the store’s bargain bins. It appears to be, Gruff Rhys and Long Live Vinyl helpfully point out, a Welsh-language version of (I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden, singer-songwriter Joe South’s country standard and a huge 1970 hit for Lynn Anderson. Job done, mystery solved… except even in a store staffed by native speakers, where the combined knowledge of Welsh music is formidable, nobody has any clear idea about the identity of the singer.

Rhys, best known as the frontman of Super Furry Animals, looks at ease in this cratedigger’s paradise, a spot where he played a DJ set on Record Store Day. Similarly, when we stop at Hard Lines, a coffee shop that also sells vinyl, Rhys chats with co-owner Matt. This part of Cardiff, home to atmospheric shopping arcades and close to the castle, is home territory.

But there are times when you need to leave the comforts of home behind, and Rhys is back in the game with a fine new solo album, Babelsberg. “It’s probably one of the most unprocessed records I’ve ever made,” he says. “there’s some overdubbing, but it’s quite a straight-up record, played by a simple live band – then an orchestra recorded on top of it…”

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