I was reading my blog on Super Furry Animals’ “Hey Venus” the other day, and noticed a comment that the band were working on two other albums for imminent release, albums that’d put the tidy poppiness of “Hey Venus” into quite a different context. Like so many talked-up projects in that vein, nothing seemed to come of them. But the new Super Furry Animals album, “Dark Days/Light Years” feels very much like the yang to the yin of “Hey Venus”.

I was reading my blog on Super Furry Animals’ “Hey Venus” the other day, and noticed a comment that the band were working on two other albums for imminent release, albums that’d put the tidy poppiness of “Hey Venus” into quite a different context. Like so many talked-up projects in that vein, nothing seemed to come of them. But the new Super Furry Animals album, “Dark Days/Light Years” feels very much like the yang to the yin of “Hey Venus”.

It begins with six minutes of skittering beats, Hendrix-derived freak-outs and the Super Furry chorus lead by Bunf and proclaiming the song title, “Crazy Naked Girls”. If “Hey Venus” was a compact statement of SFA’s more socialised aspects, “Crazy Naked Girls” signals the band asserting its ambitious, messy, daft, generally inspired side – the side that some of us love the most, to be honest.

“Dark Days/ Light Years” made very little sense on first listen, but on a second go it sounded very much like the best record the band have been associated with (and this includes Neon Neon and Gruff Rhys‘ “Candylion” as well as, deep sigh, The Peth and so on) since “Phantom Power”. It features a lot of songs built out of grooves, some of which reportedly date back something like nine years.

There’s a song called “The Very Best Of Neil Diamond”, and one called “White Socks/Flip Flops”. Nick McCarthy from Franz Ferdinand contributes a stentorian rap in German. The same song is featured twice, in Welsh and English. Derangement, albeit beautifully orchestrated, seems more or less constant.

That’s not to say there aren’t some fantastic pop songs here, though. “Inaugural Trams”, with the German rap, is a nagging, squelching electropop of sorts. “Inconvenience” is one of Gruff’s idiosyncratic rants against the world, set to a glammish boogie that heavily recalls “Golden Retriever” and, possibly, Status Quo. And “Helium Hearts” has the kind of curiously soulful lilt that ran through “Juxtaposed With U”.

Stranger stuff is afoot, though, not least “The Very Best Of Neil Diamond”, which roughly resembles Neon Neon’s “Trick For Treat” rescored as Turkish psychedelia (Is that an electric saz on there? I hope so), and another great Bunf song, “White Socks/Flip Flops”, which goes back to the source of “The Man Don’t Give A Fuck”, sharing something of the gleaming shuffle of Steely Dan’s “Showbiz Kids”.

Best of all, perhaps, there are some dazed, expansive, harmony-heavy tracks of pulsating psychedelia, like the evocative “Cardiff In The Sun”, which begins with a splintered guitar sound frighteningly – and surely inadvertently – reminiscent of The Edge, before pushing into a sort of blissed-out groove, with Gruff’s vocals – as they are often throughout the album – heavily treated.

By the end of the album, things get even more ecstatically hazy. The rich harmonies of “Where Do You Wanna Go” have drifted into “Lliwiau Llachar”, another song built on top of the same backing track. Finally, there’s “Pric”, a stainless motorik that builds and builds, is assailed by some vintage acid effects, chiming guitars and whistling, then takes a long time to fall apart very quietly.

I can’t recall an SFA album that has felt so explicitly like the work of a band; when Gruff does take the lead, his voice is often electronically altered, buried into the mix, or swamped by harmonies. Best of all, I guess, it’s going to be available digitally very soon: March 16, to be precise. Exciting!