REVIEW: Rubber Oh – Strange Craft

First of all, I’ll get the obligatory reference to this being a side project out of the way. By day, as well as being a sound engineer, Sam Grant is the guitarist in Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs. If you’re unfamiliar with their work, do yourself a favour and check them out. Recording here under his Rubber Oh guise, Grant carves out a distinct space whilst still retaining enough of Pigsx7’s DNA for the record to be recognisable to fans of that band.

That said, this is in some ways a mellower affair. The metal elements have mostly been dialed back, leaving space instead for the psych influences to really shine. There is a heaviness of sorts here, but not of the bone-crushing kind. The heaviness is instead of the head-spinning, psychedelic sort.

Throughout, songs build into a hypnotic groove, the repetition developing an intensity that becomes almost overwhelming at times. Fuzzy, throbbing bass lines drive this groove as well as helping to create the aural fog that many of the songs are drenched in. The sound is thick and claustrophobic, enveloping the listener. The guitars, when they do appear, are distorted but restrained, mostly refraining from the out and out riffing of Pigsx7. There are waves of synths washing over everything.

The album itself, however, is not repetitive or one note. Other influences are deftly woven into the mix to keep things interesting. The almost King Crimson-esque guitar on ‘Colour Orbit’ is a lovely touch that, in combination with the song’s lack of vocals, lends it a highly meditative feel. ‘Hyperdrive Fantasy’, meanwhile, begins with a recorder-like synth that makes explicit the continuum between folk and psychedelia whilst also establishing the song’s trippy mood.

This is also a machine-made record, like psych played by robots. From the digital interference that begins opening track ‘Humans’, to the pristine synths that either take the lead line or add texture on many of the tracks, this is a record with the electronic in its DNA. There is also something otherworldly or non-human in the steadiness of groove, so precise as to surely be the result of a machine. It is no surprise that on ‘Dust’ the record even calls to mind Kraftwerk, not so much in its specific rhythm but in the mood the song creates. It feels like the soundtrack to a futuristic plane flight. ‘Humans’, the album’s opening track, establishes this machine aesthetic and sensibility from the outset. Its heavily treated sprechgesang vocals sound like a robot, and its lyrics offer an outsider’s perspective on how illogical and strange humans are. Lyrical references to video games, spacecraft and other science fiction-friendly topics pop up throughout the album, helping to maintain the aesthetic.

As my preceding words have probably conveyed, this is not a particularly mainstream record. It’s perhaps too esoteric in its influences for that. It is, however, a record that deserves your time and will a rewarding listen for those willing to give it a chance. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed turning it up loud on my headphones and getting lost in it.

Words by Will Collins

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