The Slow Poisoners roam London streets soaked in the same absinthe-emerald hue that infected Coleridge's Kubla Khan. Surreal tales involving arsenic poisoning, ventriloquist puppet lovers, consumption, green tea, six-armed goddesses, mummies, Quasimodo, dancing bears, and Gunga Din find a harbinger in the opening words of singer/songwriter/guitarist Andrew Goldfarb: "Your shrunken head/ In a powdered wig/ Black matchstick mole/ Bum out on the dole/ Your stop watch silver chain/ In a bucket of brains/ My lions are tamed/ Roast spit on a flame." Goldfarb's outlandish prose is cushioned between lavish string orchestration from multi-instrumentalist Rich Trott and a diamond-sharp glam-rock aesthetic created by bassist Tim Plicka and drummer Dan Agrella while Goldfarb's Bowie-esque pitch unlocks the chastity belt of every maiden hidden in an ivory tower lined with satin pillows and unfulfilled longing. Great Spiders and Diamond Power (soon to be released on PopSmear Records) is the consummation of Victorian glam rock, immensely catchy and highly literate. Major-label money could not have made this album any better, and I can only hope this puckish foursome will hold out for as much as their pristine talents deserve. The Slow Poisoners open for Nerve Meter -- a band (likely named for Antonin Artaud's work) that boasts a vocalist who gives Peter Murphy a run for his velvet knickers, but who falls prey to Artaud's indulgent morbidity -- at Hotel Utah on Thursday, Jan. 28, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $4; call 421-8308.
In the '60s and '70s, a dub artist would become infatuated with some decorous reggae song floating about town; he would take the song home and strip it of its most opulent accouterments, leaving its center exposed -- drums, bass, and maybe rhythm guitar. In his eyes, this was art all on its own. Melody was treated as adornment, used to accent the basic body in varying shades of color and light. King Tubby was a master of this. Now, with computers, dub artists are able to choose from an endless palette of samples, creating original bodies while still focusing on the purity of bare space -- essentially painting in negative, rather than erasing extant images. Scientist -- King Tubby's apprentice -- is a master of this.
When Ben Wa -- a Bay Area production team comprising keyboardist/programmer Dr. Ware and bassist/programmer Butthouse -- recorded last year's Devil Dub with the Devil Dub Band -- Ben Wa, Buckethead, Brain, M.I.R.V., Invisibl Skratch Piklz's DJ Disk, and percussionist Adrian Isabell -- they had Scientist in mind. In fact, they had Scientist, and their album title, in mind over 10 years ago when they spent evenings jamming alongside recordings of Black Uhuru in Cupertino parking lots with M.I.R.V. and Primus drummer Brain. But sometimes you have to go a very long way to get a very short distance. (Including stints with MCM & the Monster, production collaborations with Skylab and Godflesh, and contributions to a couple of Bill Laswell compilations.) Regardless of -- or because of -- the long haul, Devil Dub is one of the finest and most challenging offerings in the world of dub. A portentous voice welcomes the listener to "hell" -- a cimmerian underworld on the edge of a sea of beats as thick and languid as molasses. Fiendish laughter and ill-boding guitar float over the keyboard bank like the warning of an albatross; demonic voices bubble to the surface, but it's too late; you're already caught in the sway and, like Ulysses without wax in his ears, you're content to sink into the warm pool of rhythm. The Devil Dub Band will join Scientist onstage for one of the heaviest dub sessions in America at Justice League on Friday, Jan. 29, with DJ Sep opening at 9 p.m. and DJ Toks spinning later. Tickets are $10-12; call 440-0409.
It's been a little while since swing chanteuse Connie Champagne sang with a big band, and she's been well-missed on the large dance-floor swing circuit. After a ham-fisted breakup with the New Morty Show -- during which the longtime co-frontperson was asked to leave just after recording the group's major-label debut -- Champagne was a bit reticent when approached by the rhythm section of Lee Press-On & the Nails. After several conversations with Press-On in which the Bammie-winning artist "took the high road and gave his blessing," Champagne formed the Magnum Brutes with brass players Todd Grady and Bobby Rogers, upright bassist Stu Sperring, drummer Beau Faw, and vibes master Michael Emenau. The Magnum Brutes perform at Kimball's East in Emeryville on Friday, Jan. 29, at 9 p.m.; call (510) 658-2555. At Inn of the Beginning (all-ages in Cotati) on Saturday, Jan. 30, at 9 p.m.; call (707) 664-1100. And at Cafe Du Nord on Sunday, Jan. 31, at 10 p.m. with free dance lessons with Fabulous Juanda at 8 p.m. and DJ Slimm Buick spinning. Tickets are $5; call 861-5016.
-- Silke Tudor