It seems somehow notable that three D.C. ex-pats had a hand in the making of this disc—as if it’s a good sign that a District-based label can provide an outlet for work unwanted or unwelcome in the emigrants’ new hometown. Julia Cafritz (who was in Pussy Galore back when the band was still based here) contributed deadpan vocals and light instrumentation to these deconstructed versions of cabaret standards, alongside lower-Manhattan goofballs Kim Rancourt and Joe Defilipps, while Don Fleming (Velvet Monkeys alum) produced. But you can forget the players. The real star of these “interpretations” is former Peach of Immortality leader Tom Smith, who mixes these sing-alongs into a wonderfully unlistenable and ridiculously unsalable recording. Heavy on the echo, backward record playing, abrupt cuts, and stereo separation gimmicks, Gravy is a perfect instruction manual for late-night college-radio DJs just learning their chops. But the product is surprisingly quiet, given the dense, loud, and vulgar output of Smith’s current project, To Live and Shave in L.A. Here, there are loads of puzzling interludes of quiet hiss and miscued syllables, so much that very little of the original songs remain. But the ambient noise and stereo separation manages to preserve the clever repartee and blasé silliness of “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” so well that Smith might be called a latter-day Esquivel, turning pop standards into strange musical adventures. You might even call this “avant-lounge”—or the fall of Cocktail Nation.—Jeff Bagato