The Real Tuesday Weld and Jill Barber at the Drake Hotel (1150 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, May 6). $8. 416-531-5042.
There's something otherworldly about the Real Tuesday Weld's musical companion to the novel I, Lucifer, author Glen Duncan's provocative recasting of the old God vs. Satan beef as a failed romance. As the artist known as the Real Tuesday Weld, Stephen Coates has developed an intriguing retro-future musical vocabulary, recontextualizing his impressions of 30s European cabaret and 40s Brit big bands in modern electro dreamscapes.
For his I, Lucifer (Six Degrees) soundtrack, Coates has found a common ground between the twilight worlds of Tom Waits and Portishead, yet the reformed visual artist seems much more obsessed with the romance of death and the death of romance than with those performers.
The key turning point for the Real Tuesday Weld - well, after the threatened lawsuit that caused the clever name change from the original Tuesday Weld handle Coates shared with the forgotten film star - was 2001's L'Amour Et La Morte (Kindercore) EP, specifically the track Epitaph For A Dead Uncle (George). It now appears to be the template for the whole so-called "antique beat" concept.
"I grew up in a slightly odd household," says Coates, enjoying a stroll through an Oxfordshire field, "where my grandfather and great-uncle George played music from the 30s and 40s almost exclusively. For me, the sound of those old records - that haunting, mysterious quality - is something I found just as inspiring as the music.
"When George died, I was in France and missed his funeral. So when I returned to England I wrote that song for him in the style he loved, and tried to capture the haunting quality of those old records. That was really the root of it all."
It's clear from the Real Tuesday Weld's previous disc, Where Cupid Meets Psyche - which documents the birth and death of a love affair - that Coates works best when there's a larger concept involved. So sharing an apartment with a working novelist like Glen Duncan has its advantages.
"Glen and I were childhood friends, so when he returned to England from the States I let him stay with me. He was starting work on a new book at the same time I was beginning a new album, and somehow the two projects grew together.
"His book, I, Lucifer, and my soundtrack for it just sort of emerged simultaneously. When I look back on it now, the whole thing seems a bit weird, like 'How did that happen?'"
The challenge Coates now faces is that of bringing the eerie mood of the I, Lucifer soundtrack to the stage with a live-band version of the Real Tuesday Weld.
"It was never my intention to perform the music live. Being onstage with one foot on a monitor and arms aloft was not something I ever desired. They had to drag me kicking and screaming out of the studio.
"But I've really gotten into the performance aspect now. I've got this amazing five-piece band with me featuring clarinetist Jacques Van Rijn, who happens to be the great-great-great-great-grandson of Rembrandt!"