Gruff Rhys & Mark James

Power, Timeless

The album PANG! was an unexpected 2019 release on the part of Welsh folk and pop songwriter Gruff Rhys and his producer Muzi, a South African electronic artist. Released by Rough Trade records, this album is more stripped back, unlike his previous albums, digital, with beautiful melodies and clean production still getting a nice boost from the orchestral chamber-pop elements. Part of the appeal of the album, as with any Rhys project, are the lyrics which touch on a number of topics surrounding issues of modern politics, metaphysics and day-to-day life. The album feels smooth and cohesive and is all tied together very nicely in the accompanying visual work. The PANG! movie is a roughly 30 minute psychedelic overture of whirling 3-dimensional polygons, Aurora Borealis and undulating landscapes which play beautifully with the music, inviting the listener into a kind of a trance.

The film directed by UK based creative director Mark James, and commissioned by Wales Arts International, takes us on a kaleidoscopic road trip, a journey through time and space. Each song visual blending into the next, from dawn til dusk and out into the outer reaches of the universe.

“At the beginning of the process we discussed using bold type, just the letters, P.A.N.G!. We started looking at various Swiss graphic design posters from the sixties and seventies as reference points. But as I sketched the letters, the more abstract they became, it then developed into the 3D PANG! objects suspended in space”

On top if its supreme listenability as an album, the album’s full length visual was created to coincide with the UNESCO Year of Indigenous Languages, a year-long initiative by the global organization to bring attention indigenous languages, and was premiered in Tokyo, Japan by Wales Arts International in October 2019.

As a part of an effort to bring awareness to the peril faced by many indigenous languages, the UNESCO year celebrated and highlighted a number of wide ranging art, music and literary contributions from marginalized cultures whose languages are at risk of disappearing.

Among them is the Welsh language known to its roughly million speakers as Cymraeg, one of Europe’s oldest living languages, that was suppressed in Wales for centuries under British rule. Regardless it is still a community language that boasts a vibrant and enduring popular culture, which is why Rhys' project, which he calls a "Welsh-language Pop album" is so significant. It helps in the continued propagation of the language in one of the most critical ways possible: getting young people re-invested in their culture and the beauty of their language. Listening to this project and reading the translation, one certainly wishes that they knew Cymraeg so that they could communicate directly with the artist.
Statement by Omar El-Sabrout


Gruff Rhys ‘PANG!’ The Album

Art Direction and Design: Mark James Works
Copyright: Rough Trade Records

Release Date: 13th September 2019

“Gruff Rhys ‘PANG!’ is a Welsh Language pop album with a couple of verses of Zulu and an English title. ‘PANG!’ developed unexpectedly over about 18 months. Recorded in Cardiff, Wales. It was produced and mixed by Muzi in Johannesburg, South Africa.”

Gruff Rhys ‘PANG!’ The Film

A film made to accompany the album.
Film Director/Editor: Mark James Works

Premiered at the Wales in Japan Showcase in Shinjuku, Tokyo, September 26th 2019

Commissioned by Wales Arts International as part of the UNESCO Year of Indigenous Languages
Unesco year of indigenous languages ↗︎