UV Ray, Old Office, Knitting Factory, NYC- 7/13
NYC ROLL-TOP: I am Yuval Gabay!
"In the future," former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty once announced
from the stage, "we will all be Yuval Gabay!" This may or not be true. When
Doughty made the proclamation in 1998, it seemed a likely – even inevitable – possibility. Soul Coughing – which included drummer Gabay – had just
released their third forward-looking avant-pop record, "El Oso", and – with
a strong single, Circles – seemed poised to move into the limelight.
As things happen, it didn't really work out — the album tanked relative to
their label's expectations, bandmembers turned to family and heroin, and the
group disintegrated. We should look back on such days with the same heady
wonder we reserve for the Space Age — lustful glances towards a more
perfect future. It is a wonderful thing to look back on a past in whose
future we will all still be Yuval Gabay.
That future still exists in some form — namely in the fact that Gabay is
still alive and kicking, playing around Manhattan every month or two with
his UV Ray project (whose rotating lineup usually also includes former Soul
Coughing bassist Sebastian Steinberg, as well as former They Might Be
Giants' bassist Tony Maimone). The music is a continuation of the live
jungle/drum-n-bass beats that Gabay explored with Soul Coughing, applying
them towards harder-edged soundscapes than he got to explore on his previous
band's records. Though the gigs are rare (coming once every few months) and
always too short (always clocking in well under an hour), they are a treat.
On Friday night, Gabay returned to the Knitting Factory (under whose
downtown auspices Soul Coughing originally met) for a midnight set in the
tiny Old Office space.
DJ Fashion Imposter spun discs for a sparse crowd, who lined either side of
the room, slumped at tables and against the wall. Gabay sat mild-mannered at
his drums, black baseball cap turned slightly to the side. He sat for a
while, listening to the beats, confidently tapped his hi-hat a few times (as
if soundchecking it) and pushed full-on into a sharp beat while Fashion
Imposter toyed with a synthesizer. After a perfectly fine sounding groove
(or song, or jam, I'm not sure what to call this stuff), Gabay stopped
abruptly, saying that they needed to iron some technical difficulties.
Maimone spun records while Gabay fiddled with the electronically wired pads
integrated into his drum set-up, which also featured an electronic kick-drum
— a nifty contraption which allowed him to substitute a creative range of
digital sounds into his beats.
Gabay and Fashion Imposter soon continued with their set of hard grooves.
Maimone joined the pair for the last 10-15 minutes of the too-short set,
contributing deep, melodic rumbles to the mix. Sebastian Steinberg was
mysteriously absent, which was unfortunate. The two bass attack works
Nobody danced – not to the records, not to the live music – and that didn't
seem to bother anybody. Though it felt perfectly natural not to dance, it
also struck me as a bit odd, given the nature of the music being performed.
I suppose all dance musics will eventually be weirdly bastardized (though
I'm not sure if that's the right word) into art music. It's just a product
of time — things that were once natural and fluid soon become a bit dated.
Once that happens, it's harder to be self-conscious about them anymore. That
said, I'm not sure if jungle has quite reached that point yet, though there
certainly have been elements of backlash. Still, UV Ray's next scheduled gig
is at the DJ-oriented 2002 at
the Lunatarium. In any event, people weren't dancing at the Knit, and that's
New genres hold exciting possibilities — that they, unsullied, can do
something that no other approach to music has yet done, possibly even
transcending the bounds of music altogether for something greater. On some
level, this is the beauty of all progressive, searching musics. But what of
progressive musics past? Is there still a future in which we will all become
Yuval Gabay? Good music is good music, but there's something nice about
futuristic things. They're shiny. So it goes.
Jesse Jarnow can't help but wonder.