Any electronic musician who chooses to live in Boston has made a conscious decision to remove him or herself from nerve centers like New York, Montreal, and Berlin. Given that geography, Somerville’s Ten Hills neighborhood is indeed an island apart. “It’s a pretty unknown corner of Somerville,” says Basstown music star SAN SERAC (a/k/a NAT RABB). “It’s totally cut off from the highways, which is kind of nice and secluded.”
Rabb has released three albums of forceful electronic club music, most recently Professional, a 14-track epic of dark disco madness, with art-punk-flavored tracks like “Tyrant” and a handful of heady DJ dubs that close out the disc. His talent has drawn the eye of the hip duo Junior Boys, who took him on a month-long tour earlier this year. “We have a bunch of mutual friends,” he says. “Professional came out in April: I wanted to wrap it up before the tour, so I hauled ass to get it out.” The determination paid off: he sold hundreds of copies on the jaunt.
Aside from the considerable assistance he receives from his friend MICHAELANN ZIMMERMAN, Rabb produces his own material, playing the instruments and even releasing his music on his own label — Frogman Jake. “I try to do things in whatever order they actually occur. Which is not in order, if you know what I mean.” He has distribution deals with labels in Japan and Canada, where Professional will come out this fall. “There’s talk of a tour,” he laughs. “Always talk.”
Although San Serac is an electronic project, Rabb’s music has a human soul. Earnest vocals color many of his songs, and the tracks are peppered with classic R&B staples like sax solos and handclaps. The chic album artwork, designed by Rabb and Zimmerman, evokes a very different era — the 1980s. “It wasn’t until I was growing up that I realized how cold and electronic the arrangements were [in 1980s pop]. Like, David Frank from the System is this unsung hero, because he did some really crazy shit with his arrangements. He did [Chaka Khan’s] “I Feel for You,” and that was a smash Top 10 hit, right? And the way that it’s put together is the apotheosis of that style. But I digress. What’s important to me is that the sound is new. I use a lot of sounds that have semiotic meaning, and if it’s not new, it’s not done. If other people don’t see it that way, that’s okay.”
Rabb has relied heavily on the Internet for buzz. Big Stereo has called him “the closest thing to David Bowie the current dance scene has”; Fluxblog has dubbed his style “suave lunacy.” He’s played in and around Boston for a while now, particularly at dance parties like Hearthrob in Cambridge and Pop! in Providence. And he’s such a fan of dance music, he even included a few “For DJs Only!” dubs at the end of his CD. “I gave that a lot of thought. The more I thought about it, the more it felt like it needed dubs, because I play dance music in my mind, but if you can’t mix it in a DJ set, is it really dance music?”
Now that Professional is on its way, Rabb has started to move on another project, one with even more buzz. Stereo Image is himself and Johnny Dark, one-time svengali of the Junior Boys. Rabb: “He asked me to sing on a track and I said yes. I recorded one song with him and everyone was really into it.” On the strength of that track, Stereo Image have been featured in the British magazine Fact. “Johnny has tons and tons of music he’s been working on over the years, so once we started going, we worked pretty fast.”
Stereo Image should have a release ready this fall. Prepare for an onslaught of San Serac, too, since Rabb has remixes from NYC producer Passions and hip Parisian Popular Computer and has been plundering nearby Providence, with work coming from PORTABLE SUNSETS, Hearthrob DJ MORGAN LOUIS, and Pop! resident INITALES A.A. You can pick up Professional at frogmanjake.com, or at iTunes.