OK so here’s the premise as I understand it… Pigs (x7) guitarist and producer Sam Grant really likes rubber… its density… its elasticity… actually let’s let him explain:
“I want people to imagine that feeling of rubber – its physical memory, the unnatural vibe of it. It’s so tactile but alien, but also difficult not to know. It’s an odd analogy, but that’s what this music is for me.”
…and when you read that you can see the sense of it… music can be many things to many people and I have always been a fan of this sort of interpretation… it’s a form of synaesthesia… something that is often applied to the relationship between music and colour… but this is a more tactile example.
The opportunity to make an album which adopts this premise came for Grant during lockdown… he took the opportunity to upgrade his studio and then began to realise a number of ideas that he had come up with when recording his and other bands.. the results of which are far different from what I expected.
Indeed, I have to say that I really wasn’t sure about this album the first few times that I heard it… it felt rather light and shallow for my tastes… but as I’ve managed to delve further into it I really started to pick things up that I hadn’t noticed before which really launched the album for me… maybe I needed to push against it a bit harder to appreciate it… so thinking about the rubber angle gave it an additional interest.
The album opens with ’Humans’… a track which I initially found quite annoying… but as I listened to it more frequently the melodies started coming through… I started getting an essence of my favourite period Flaming Lips (1999-2002) and it all started falling into place. The use of two bass guitars gives it a lovely low level grumble and, and this is something that I don’t often write about the music I like, it sounds rather fun.
After that ’Dust’ starts with a lovely electronic flourish before heading off into quite a dreamy pop pattern. There is something strangely comforting to it… something that I can’t really explain from its constituent parts… beguiling would be a good overall descriptor
‘Children of Alchemy’ starts with a riff that sounds like the noise my kids used to make when they were doing police car impressions… for me at least this gives the number a playful feel which provides a nice counterpoint to the lovely melody that becomes intermeshed with it… I can’t get the Flaming Lips out of my head either now… and that’s certainly a complement as far as I’m concerned.
‘Little Demon’ starts with an ace bass riff which heralds a slight darkening of the atmosphere… it’s a track that’s quite difficult to place at first… again it’s the easy way that it progresses… there’s a sort of simplicity to all these songs… something which I don’t mean in a derogatory sense… but in the sense that they very much share an aesthetic that is perhaps also personified by the striking cover to this album which was created by Argentinian artist Santi Zoraidez… something that certainly be taken in terms of the title of the next track, ’Colour Orbit’, which is another slow number which certainly reflects the potential softness of rubber… and particularly when one can imagine passing through the sleeve design made of such material.
Then comes the track that I have most noticed when playing the album through. ‘Hyperdrive Fantasy’ is a much more danceable number which I could well imagine grooving to on some sort of crazy cosmic bouncy… er… spaceship, castles being passé for this writer. Really its just a great piece of music that somehow had me thinking back to Lemon Jelly… it feels like that sort of bright, breezy but ace aesthetic. This definitely continues with ’Arcade’ in which you can just imagine yourself amidst the flashing lights and hyperreality of such places… or even some of the games that you play there… you are slightly shifted out of reality by it… and this, for me is where the psychedelic angle on this album comes in… because those making it are not trying to conform but celebrate their novel approach to making music here.
An that’s kinda when I am with the last three tracks here… ’To Be The Mariner’ could have been some sort of doomy durge, but this is turned totally on it’s head here and, with a Doors/ Manzarek organ in the mix, you get something that is rather uplifting. ‘Nothing’ also has a 60s West Coast psychedelic feel to it in places but underneath it harder than that… more rubber on the floor than flowers in the hair… and is rapidly becoming my favourite track here… through its self-reflective enthusiasm alone.
The final song, ‘You’ll Feel Better In The Morning’, has a similar vibe to it… this album is really beginning to party now as any shackles that may have been on have been well and truly thrown off… in the way that you get when you’re deep into a live performance at a gig where you’re aware that the curfew is fast approaching but don’t want it to stop… and so realise that this is a set to sit back/ get up and enjoy for all its exuberance and joie d’vivre.
I have been on a bit of a journey with this album… actually even since I started writing this piece. The more I listened and the more I thought about it the more I kind of let go of my preconceptions and just took it for what I think it is… a set which is just a joy to be with… a fantastic listen which just makes me feel happy.
’Strange Craft’ is released by Rocket Recordings.
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