"Face the Strange"


Charlottesville's Clare Quilty is a full band with a newly added keyboardist. But on its third album, "Face the Strange," the quintet sounds like one of those duos and trios from the late '90s, when Portishead and Massive Attack were a leading influence. The disc's predominant instrumentation is synthetic, and the spotlight is on a plaintive soprano. The voice belongs to Jenn Rhubright, who delivers the bummed-out sentiments of such trippy laments as "Tremble," "Beautiful Lies" and the Suzanne Vegalike "Sad Untitled." The punch line of that last tune -- "This ecstasy is killing me" -- is symptomatic.

The album's title comes from David Bowie's "Changes," and the disc includes a glacial rendition of another '70s Bowie number, "Rebel Rebel." Yet not everything here is chilly, electro and faux British. Despite its title, "Numb" is reasonably upbeat, and the disco-rock "Glitterbug" even lets the guitar out of the icebox, where it has been locked for most of the album. Whether brooding or (occasionally) grooving, the band knows how to construct a song. But it needs to continue work on building a style it can call its own.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Sunday at DC9.