Space Raft – Rubicon (Dusty Medical Records)

SpaceRaft_BernieBY Blaine Schultz

In two years Milwaukee’s Space Raft has released a pair of albums, a vinyl 45, and opened for Bernie Sanders. Bands release records to varying levels of success. Fewer can say they were asked to open for a candidate for President of the United States.

So here we are in April and we may already have a record of the year. Rubicon, the band’s sophomore hijinks (for the already venerable Dusty Medical Records label) finds the quartet digging in deep. The music is what matters with these guys. No skinny jeans or ironic haircuts, they look just as likely to change your oil in ten minutes as play seriously good rock and roll. But in the grooves lie the truth.

To be fair, there is nothing new under the sun, yet…Space Raft takes basic elements…driving riffs, catchy hooks, interesting guitar and keyboard parts with solos that serve the song, and a bedrock rhythm section – then they make the music their own.

Guitarist Jordan Davis sings with a proudly Midwestern, laconic, near-stoner drawl. Songs morph before your very ears. “Disconnection Notice,” combines Tjay Christenson’s soaring keyboards with a primal guitar riff. The urgency of “Red Arrow,” travels into multifaceted music parts, shape-shifting, and building into a frenzy of feedback.

A vaguely narcotic haze, hovers over the proceedings, and once again another fine collage serves as cover art. The sound is psychedelic without going over the top. Yet none of this gets beyond square one without the foundation of rhythm section, drummer Tyler Chicorel and bassist Jon Heibler.

Clarion keyboards of “Borrowed Time,” casts against its title with a sense of vibrancy…“nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, ain’t going back, ain’t going home,” as if to declare, ‘if it is borrowed time, then…what the hell?’ And if you’re looking to cast the shadow of an influence, that tune might be the third cousin to Big Star’s drifting ethos.

“Vacation,” unfolds like a mapless summer road trip, adding the melodic bridge hints perhaps, Christenson has listened to a few George Harrison albums. The song demonstrates as key balance between guitar and keyboards.

With “Sunday Take Me Away,” Davis’ lyrics plead and repeat the title phrase as Christenson’s Mellotron part cycles, mockingly, back to start again and again. The self-reliant tension of “Bitter Cup,” makes way for a finale that recalls the good old “Detroit/Ann Arbor Sound.”

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