Strange Craft is the new album by the Pigsx7 guitarist and producer Sam Grant recording as Rubber Oh. It’s project that was put together in snatched moments around his regular job in Newcastle’s Blank Studios and, according to the press release: “certain rules of thumb were utilised, with each track constructed in counter-intuitive approach to the riff-driven world of his main band – across a subterranean low-end bedrock of two bass guitarists, a complete absence of cymbal wash, and only single notes allowed on guitar”.
Whatever rules were applied to Strange Craft it’s worked brilliantly and, whereas Pigsx7 swagger like a neo-glam Black Sabbath, Rubber Oh brings with it a more pulsating galactic-electronic swirl. It opens with ‘Strange Craft’, which starts like the message you would expect to get if you were manning a SETI listening station and opens out into something that could be an update to The Carpenters ‘Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft’. Arpeggios fly around stomping bass like an electronic murmuration on ‘Dust’, ‘Children Of Alchemy’ and ‘Little Demon’ stomp around like teenagers asked to do chores, and ‘Colour Orbit’ sounds like machine learning picking its way through a command to write space-jazz.
At the halfway point ‘Hyperdrive Fantasy’ blasts in using cowbell as the fuel to propel us through the second half of the album. ‘Arcade’ bounces along on a 70s glam rock beat, ‘To Be The Mariner’ could be the corporate anthem for the industrial complex that made the strange craft, ‘Nothing’, which was the previous single (video below), is the standout track and manages to pull together all the elements of the album into one glorious whole and I previously described it as “soothing and uneasy in equal measure”. There’s one last hurrah, ‘You’ll Feel Better In The Morning’, one last opportunity to watch “C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate” and then we’re leaving Rubber Oh’s galaxy behind.
Strange Craft melds digital and analogue sounds perfectly. It’s a glorious mix of modern techniques with the kind of 50-60s sci-fi aesthetic of a film like Forbidden Planet and it bounces wobbles, stomps, squelches, soars, swings like an atomic space hopper in slow motion. If you told me Sam Grant was The Man Who Fell to Earth from a planet with more advanced musical capabilities, I wouldn’t doubt it for a moment.
Strange Craft is released by Rocket Recordings and can be ordered via all good independent record stores and via the Rubber Oh Bandcamp page (including coloured vinyl variants).
Review by Paul F Cook