Way back in the summer of 2016, I sat down in D.C. to have a chat with Super Furry Animals keyboardist Cian Ciaran. In that wide-ranging interview, Cian discussed not only the Furries and Zefur Wolves (the band he's in with his wife), but also his orchestral ambitions, namely the then-upcoming unveiling of his symphonic work, Rhys A Meinir. The large-scale piece, based on the famous Welsh folktale, had its world premiere in November 2016 and now, this Thursday, the film of that event will debut on S4C in Wales, and the BBC's iPlayer in the rest of the United Kingdom. For those of us not in Wales or the UK, it will be available to watch, with English subtitles, for 35 days from SC4 via this link. Also, Rhys A Meinir will be released as an album via Strangetown Records on Friday.
The album is, frankly, a revelation. A listener shouldn't be surprised that Cian Ciaran is a man of prodigious talent but, rather, that he is so easily capable of branching out so effectively. Rhys A Meinir is a record that alternates between lush orchestral passages, and stark, soundtrack-like pieces of music that convey the sadness and lyricism of the Welsh tale to a listener. In my interview with Cian Ciaran, he mentioned an appreciation for the music of John Barry, Bizet, and Ennio Morricone, an appreciation that one can hear here in the selections on Rhys A Meinir. A track like "Haul o rywle'n tywynnu" early in the record even bears a faint trace of Randy Newman's soundtrack work about it, while the lighter-than-air "Safodd yn stond" offers a rich abundance of harp figures. The more direct "Marwydos" brings a kind of folk music to the classical work, while the absolutely stunning "Rhedeg" chills and moves the soul in the style and spirit of the best Bernard Herrmann film scores. It's not entirely a surprise that this is an affecting work, but that it's so atypical of what one would expect from a Super Furry Animal. The band used strings before but never quite like this, Ciaran here embracing the larger forms and offering up something both Modern and Romantic.
Rhys A Meinir should rightly get as much attention as any Super Furry Animals release. It is such a departure for Cian Ciaran -- and simultaneously a natural progression for him as an artist -- that it could not only appeal to a whole new audience, but reach listeners outside Wales interested in Welsh folklore and history. Fans of Brahms, Nilsson, Miklos Rozsa, and The High Llamas should find bits here to embrace. Fans of the Super Furry Animals should, naturally, find lots to love here from the mastermind behind the electronic textures of the band's legendary releases. Rhys A Meinir by Cian Ciaran will be out this week via Strangetown Records.
More details on Rhys A Meinir via Pledge Music.
There are a few details on the project in my 2016 interview with Cian Ciaran ahead of the Super Furry Animals concert in Washington, D.C..
[Photo of Cian Ciaran: Glenn Griffith, 2016]