Burning rubber

Rubber O Cement employs a ski-like bass with circuit-bent pedal effects. (Photo by Bill T Miller)

San Francisco underground duo finds better music through science fiction

A duo that's self-proclaimed to be tinkering on the "cusp of super science," Rubber O Cement cauterizes the often misunderstood realm of experimental, electronic music to make it alluring yet assaulting.

Bubbling out of the San Francisco musical miasma, Grux and his partner in crime, Mic, take listeners into the future with their NASA-inspired cardboard-physicist philosophy and warbling workings of twisted electronics.

The two space enemy combatants have worked together for nearly 10 years, touring with underground bands such as Comets on Fire and Wolf Eyes (with whom they'll hit Austin on November 7). Their sonic resonance has flipped wigs in Osaka, tainted schnitzels in Frankfurt and pickled spectators in Pittsburgh.

That's no small feat for a pair of lug nuts who couldn't carry a tune if they tried. Siphoning their science-fiction-soaked content from the national space program, books by the likes of Jack Vance, and the ballistic aesthetics of the World War II supercomputer, ENIAC, Rubber O Cement bends time to suit its scientific endeavors for a better tomorrow.

Their band utilizes a homemade, ski-like bass with about 20 or more circuit-bent pedal effects and a pitch-shifting keyboard which serves as a bludgeoning backup belcher.

Currently on tour with the Detroit-bred darlings of the noise scene, Wolf Eyes, the two Bay Area noisemakers tend to lurk in the shadows. Rubber O Cement has been successful at being obscure yet ubiquitous, constantly touring back and forth across the nation like some strange new breed of horse-thieving confidence men.

However, avoiding the high beams isn't what they strive for when it comes to educating the masses about their scientific rhetoric.

Part of their chartered galactic enterprise is to bring "giant biological anomalies" and "amino-porto acids" into the everyday banter of rockers.

In a recent interview with a San Francisco zine called enterruption, Grux talked about creating a comic book called "Euglena de Sade."

"An Euglena is a single-celled green alga pond scum microorganism that has a flagellate whip tail. The tail is used to move around in the water. It's tough walking around on land with a chip on your shoulder constantly becoming dehydrated and misunderstood," he explained.

Although the science is speculative, the musical collaboration between Grux and Mic sometimes seems to cram every note encompassed by the highest and lowest ranges of human hearing.

This type of easy listening for the hard of hearing generally appeals to a marginal audience. It's the kinda stuff that indulges people who enjoy listening to obsolete equipment and car crashes. Still, their live performances often leave the sparse spectators slack-jawed and in stitches. Grux often bicycles through the cluttered streets of San Francisco wearing laminated cardboard-scribble scrabble posters and rooster shaped head gear.

Wolf Eyes
Rubber O Cement, Aurora Plastics Company,
Nerve Death
Sun, Nov 7
603 Red River, Austin
(512) 477-EMOS
Rubber O Cement's curious sound features special guest appearances by Karla LaVey. The daughter of late Satanist Anton LaVey, her rich, textured organ overtures can be found on at least one of the duo's six recordings. So, seeing a Rubber O Cement show is often like opening a grab bag of scientific and musical detritus. In the great Northern California tradition of the Residents, Rubber O Cement thrives on visual mystery.

How often do you get to witness a gargantuan Martin mosquito jumping around in trademarked "Bouncing Baby Fat Boots" playing a giant steel ski rod shaped vaguely like a bass guitar? What about a cardboard-constructed city with functional reel-to-reel data feeds and a spray painted circuit board background that connects the players to a stream of inaudible space station statistics and secrets?

I know what you're thinking: What are Bouncing Baby Fat Boots? And why are they trademarked? These boots could more accurately be compared to porcelain doll booties, complete with lace ruffled anklet socks and Mary Jane matte black slippers. Suffice to say the spectacle can often be hysterically enjoyable to the point of splitting some seams. Get there early to heckle the noise nerds as they try to split atoms with electronics and some cardboard props.

If you survive the Rubber O Cement spectacle, you'll be bombarded by Wolf Eyes, whose work was aptly described by Pitchfork Media as sounding "as if it were scored for a late-21st century update of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where the villain is actually an indefatigable android gone haywire."

By Michelle Valdez