A Touch of Class with Kevin Frey, The Librarian and Evan Scott
Friday · Clique Lounge
"A Touch of Class" is the cheesy name of a lot things — a '70s George Segal/Glenda Jackson movie, escort services, limo companies and practically any other wedding-related business you can think of. That includes wedding/party "DJ" companies ready and willing to electric slide their way into your next private event. But the dynamic duo A Touch of Class (ATOC) probably won't be playing your cousin's bar mitzvah anytime soon. Not that they wouldn't perhaps want to; they're just too busy.
This ATOC is the New York City-based production/DJ duo of Oliver Stumm and Domie Clausen, who were bored with what they were seeing and hearing in dance clubs in the late '90s and decided to actually do something about it and create their own fun. "Fun" is the key word — the twosome eschews the humorless "Superstar DJ" and jaded hipster ethos for something more down to earth and playful. In 1999, they launched ATOC Records and began releasing their own records as well as material from other artists that fit the ATOC mindset. What is that mindset? The duo has been quoted repeatedly as saying they like "anything retarded."
ATOC gave the world Scissor Sisters, releasing the first singles from the Disco/Rock/Pop ensemble and providing the quintessential mix of the Sisters' strobe-light version of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb."
ATOC's appearance at Covington's Clique is a part of the monthly "4|4" night, presented by area Dance music collaborative Race Car Productions. Race Car's Kevin Frey, who's also one of the opening acts Friday, says he discovered ATOC's music via their "Comfortably Numb" remix and has been a big fan ever since.
"Somehow they're able to be both sexy and smart while touching on the old and new," Frey says. "Normally, the two rarely meet."
The ATOC label has been home to releases by cult faves like Services and Waldorf, and ATOC was also the force behind "Flawless," a Top 10 hit in the UK for The Ones. Stumm and Clausen have done remixes for A.R.E. Weapons, Le Tigre and Erasure, which gives a good sense of what to expect from their appearance. Fans of Electroclash, Dance Rock and unhinged modern Disco shouldn't be disappointed. For a great sample of what's in store, pick up a copy of duo's 2004 audio résumé, A Touch of Class Sucks!, which features many of aforementioned mixes as well as their own fantastic creations, like the slashing, jittery No Wave cuts " Not You Me!" and "Start It Up." (Mike Breen)
Vetiver with Lichens
Monday · Publico Gallery
Don't let Andy Cabic's tight ties with Devendra Banhart color your opinions of his band, San Francisco's underground Folk drone troupe Vetiver, too far one way or the other. Yes, Cabic has called Banhart his best friend and played in his backing band, Banhart has been a member of Vetiver and Cabic's songs do share some qualities with Banhart's campfire-til-dawn, not-made-for-these-times Psych Folk. But Vetiver's new album, To Find Me Gone, is too strong not to be considered on its own merits, as Cabic further develops his own distinctive voice.
Cabic was raised in Northern Virginia and moved to Greensboro, N.C., in the mid-'90s to attend college. There, he sang and played guitar in The Raymond Brake, a young Indie/Math Rock band that was inspired by the North Carolina sound of groups like Polvo and Archers of Loaf. In the late '90s, with only an acoustic guitar to write on, Cabic landed in the Bay Area and befriended Banhart. Dubbing his band Vetiver (aroma therapy nuts will know the name as an earthy "essential oil"), Cabic enlisted some other notable friends for the group's 2004 debut, including Joanna Newsom, Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval and My Bloody Valentine drummer Colm O'Ciosoig.
Vetiver's To Find Me Gone leaves behind the wild-eyed, so-called "Freak Folk" attributes for something more sedate, focused and lullingly transcendent. Outside of a few outlandish outbursts towards the end, the album generally drifts on a free-flow of narcotic lullabies, with hushed melodies and groovy acoustic strums that seem to sonically capture the drowsy purgatory between being awake and asleep. The hypnotics kick in immediately on opener (and standout track) "Been So Long," with its Velvet-Underground-goes-to-India drone, heartbeat pulse and wispy vocals that hang in the air like smoke rings. "You May Be Blue" picks up the spellbinding thread with a drizzling, low rumble, while cuts like "Maureen" and "Double" glide on a spherical acoustic flutter. To Find Me Gone is a heavy-lidded frolic with an organic, old-world soul. Not recommended for "driving music," except in zero-gravity situations. (MB)
Gary Numan with New Skin
Tuesday · Bogart's
For an object lesson in the high highs and low lows of the music industry, you can't find a better tutor than Gary Numan. After flirting with Punk in the late '70s, the London native joined a band called the Lasers and changed their name to Tubeway Army. As they began work on their debut album, Numan was seduced by the sound of synthesizers and announced that the band would henceforth rely on electronics, alienating everyone but bassist Paul Gardiner. Retooled as Gary Numan and Tubeway Army, the trio (with Numan's uncle, Jess Lidyard, on drums) did two albums, the second of which, Replicas, produced the No. 1 British hit "Are 'Friends' Electric?"
In 1979, Numan was introduced to the American mainstream through his appearance as writer/performer on Robert Palmer's synth-heavy Clues and through his third album (this time under his own name), The Pleasure Principle, another No. 1 British smash. In the U.S., the album's first single, the propulsively clockwork "Cars," hit the Top 10 and sparked an interest in the previous Tubeway Army works. Sadly, 1980's Telekon did little to capitalize on its predecessor's success and the album never broke into the Top 50 in the U.S.; Numan's spotlight at home began to dim just as appreciably. For the next 15 years, he dabbled in albums that he ultimately admitted were, although somewhat successful, less than satisfying, while diverting his attention to becoming a pilot.
In 1994, with music nearly a hobby, Numan folded guitar back into his synth-based sound and released the harsher, more industrial Sacrifice, which found an eager audience. Two years later came the more foreboding Exile, which returned Numan to the charts and triggered a revival of sorts as "Cars" found new life through television commercials. With covers by the likes of Beck, Foo Fighters and Smashing Pumpkins, testimonials of influence from Marilyn Manson and Trent Reznor and various samples and mash-ups making the charts, Numan was exposed to a whole new generation of listeners.
In 2001, he released the stunning Pure, followed by a number of live CD/DVD releases and finally this year's critically acclaimed new studio album, Jagged. Gary Numan and his friends, it would seem, are most definitely electric. (Brian Baker)