In an age when affordable music gear and virtual studio technology has made common music whose depth and range of expression can be measured in mouse clicks, more credence should be lent to artists like Boston-based singer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Nat Rabb (San Serac). A kind of post-Napster-era one-man band, Rabb performs and produces all of his own music, stages solo live performances (aided only by basic rhythm tracks), and runs an independent label (Frog Man Jake) that serves as a one-stop-shop for his productions. With the inevitable comparisons to Prince or Todd Rundgren afoot, Rabb, a strictly under-the-radar, non-mainstream artist, is nowhere near such legendary status, but is equally idiosyncratic in his approach -- evincing a flair for suave disco-house with serious chops and a pale, deadpan croon similar to David Bowie's.
A veteran of Baltimore post-punk bands since the early '90s, Rabb simultaneously nurtured a life-long affection for new wave synth pop and electro-R&B (particularly the groups Shalamar and Midnight Star) -- an interest that dovetailed with his later discovery of classic disco and house music. Proposing a mish-mash of styles with echoes of the creative genre miscegenation of post-disco DJ-producers Larry Levan and Arthur Russell, Rabb rekindled his childhood indie cassette label, Frog Man Jake, in the early 2000s, retooling the imprint to release micro-edition CD-Rs of his wayward musical explorations. He eventually released his first proper material under the San Serac moniker, the full-length Human Savagery Is a Slippery Slope (2001). A pretzel-logic amalgam of ‘70s FM rock, synthesized funk, and ersatz quiet storm jams, the album received airplay from famed U.K. radio jock John Peel, but its cryptic lyrics -- earnest political allegory wrapped up in tangle of subconscious imagery -- left most critics baffled. A successful U.K. tour was followed by a second album, Ice Age (2004), that brought more dance elements to the fore, including, notably, MIDI-triggered timbales -- a cornerstone of Rabb's live show. A brief stint at Trevor Jackson's Output label yielded the 12" single for "Tyrant," a highlight of San Serac's third full-length, Professional (2007). Not content to stay in a single musical track for too long, Rabb began fruitful collaborations with ex-Junior Boys beat programmer Johnny Dark (Stereo Image), Michaelann Zimmerman (the Internet), and French electronic producer Para One (Slice and Soda); and in 2009 released an EP (Music Never Ends) for Morgan Geist's respected dance music label Environ. ~ Dave Shim