Rory Grubb may be a singer-songwriter, but he isn’t exactly the kind of artist that term brings to mind. Third album Water House, his first in seven years – apparently “pieced together in rural Kilkenny between 2010 and 2012, over two very cold winters, in buildings without insulation” but only now seeing the light of day – amplifies the idiosyncrasies of previous album Sketches From The Big Sleep and brings them closer to the surface, as he mixes acoustic and electronic instrumentation along with homemade instruments like his impressive electric ceramophone – an array of ceramic pots spanning the musical scale, wired up to effects pedals. Along with building loops by beating and bowing a bicycle wheel, this sort of inventiveness alone is enough to make Grubb an essential live act, but he also has the songs to back it up. His recorded work brims with charm, lo-fi yet layered, echoing certain elements of David Kitt, Sufjan Stevens or Patrick Kelleher but inhabiting a world of often childlike wonder all of its own.
Where other instrument inventors like Thomas Truax use their creations for unsettling or disturbing outsider pop, Grubb has chosen to use his for good rather than evil, crafting melodic pop lullabies that proves arty experimentalism needn’t always sound challenging or difficult. Considering he also recently made a huge harp out of string to fill a Georgian meeting house in Offaly, turning it into a ‘playable building’ as part of an art project, it seems unlikely Grubb will grow bored of experimenting any time soon. Cathal McBride