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House Of Tudor 

Replicant torch songs, outdoor cinema, and Pistel-whipped dub

Wednesday, Aug 1 2001
Folks speak of Ruby as the solo project of Lesley Rankine, former frontwoman of Scottish noise-provocateurs Silverfish, but producer Mark Walk has been there since Ruby's inception. (In fact, the band's moniker is the shared name of the duo's maternal grandmothers.) Having previously worked with Rankine in the industrial collective Pigface, Walk began providing ambience, substance, and rich instrumentation to Rankine's dreamy meanderings as early as 1994.

On the pair's recent album, Short-Staffed at the Gene Pool, the partnership appears intact and fruitful. As on Ruby's splendid 1995 debut, Salt Peter, Rankine's voice shimmers and smolders through a trip hop haze; now, however, the industrial thistles that spiked Salt Peter succumb to a far suppler latticework of jazz and pop, albeit jazz and pop nourished by motherboards and fiber optics. Tracks such as "Beefheart" and "Lamplight" sound like torch songs created for replicants -- sad and smoky, evoking prefab memories in surrealist bytes of human tongue. "Queen of Denial" turns Rankine into a cyber-slam poet whispering and ranting in the holding tank of a rusting interplanetary shuttle, where electronic beats and flippant sax lines resist her breathy vocal percussion. "Roses" is one of the most electronic songs on the album, despite Rankine's sultry mezzo-soprano and organic references to dirt, sex, and coal-burning engines. "Grace" is a slinky, sweaty dance-floor hit that should be played at the first intergalactic party hosted by Grace Jones. "Lilypad," the most purely pop of the many delights on Short-Staffed, is a duet of sorts between Rankine's reedy tenor, which doles out stern caveats like "You might think you're getting paid/ But you're still on the lilypad," and her flitting, coquettish soprano, which insists that the protagonist "Sing for me/ Sing for me." Indeed. Ruby performs on Wednesday, Aug. 1, at Slim's with Dredge opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12; call 522-0333.

One of my favorite summertime leisures is flopping down at dusk in an overstuffed chair in my friends' back yard to watch instructional movies from the 1950s projected on their garage wall. It's not just the smell of roasting meat or the warmth of flickering tiki torches or the comfort of a well-stocked wet bar or the half-dozen nice people covered in sleeping bags or the sound of exotic birds honking in the outdoor aviary that's so enticing. There's something inherently pleasing about sitting under the sky, watching movies as the stars come out. I miss drive-ins; more to the point I miss load-ins, during which two or three families might pile together in one big truck with folding lawn chairs, blankets, and coolers, equipped to watch, well, anything really. The Brainwash Movie Festival understands my longing. For seven years, the organizers have picked walls and shown movies. The films are usually short -- created by artists, activists, and independent filmmakers -- and chosen from among copious submissions. (Sadly, they are rarely home movies, which really heighten that load-in vibe.) This year's fest includes The Ballad of the Green Beret by Kevin Keating, alleged founder of the Mission Yuppie Eradication Project; Tour Tips #14 by the ever-humorous, ever-poignant, and highly prolific Danny Plotnick; and numerous others, with digital imagery provided by Chet Helms, founder of Big Brother & the Holding Company and Family Dog concert promotions. The seventh annual Brainwash Movie Festival will be held Friday through Sunday, Aug 3-5, in the driveway of Pyramid Ale Brewery (901 Gilman, Berkeley) at 8 p.m. (Sunday will be "The Best of Brainwash" program). The festival is also held indoors on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 10-11, at SomArts Gallery (934 Brannan) at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8-10 or $30 for a festival pass; call 273-1545 or visit

A pioneer of the Bay Area electronic music scene, Mark Pistel was a founding member of political hip hop industrialist act Consolidated as well as co-writer and beat-maker for Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. More recently, Pistel collaborated with Meat Beat Manifesto, appearing on Subliminal Sandwich and Actual Sounds and Voices and playing synth, samplers, and guitars on tour. Between international jaunts, Pistel still found time to lay down his own tracks. His solo debut, Pistel, was released in 1998; subsequently, his live band, which at the time included rapper Mohammed and the Bass Kittens' Jon Drukman, took the name Electronic Dub Collective. Pistel's more recent recording, Electronic Dub Collective Two, offers thick, languid music, with a heavier emphasis on dub that works the blood and the gut. While almost entirely electronic, Two sounds eternally and gratefully earthbound. New recruit Kristen Rice handles the turntables, samples, and concepts, while fellow initiates Lynn Farmer and ledenhed provide drums and vocals, respectively; as always, Pistel supplies synths, samples, and textures. Electronic Dub Collective performs on Saturday, Aug. 4, at the Elbo Room with DJs Sep and Mei-Lwun opening at 10 p.m. Tickets are $6; call 552-7788.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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