Music Writing by Carson Arnold
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LIDA HUSIK DIVA OF PAJAMA ROCK
Like a skunk in a gate community, like the coolest breeze of the big-band era, Lida Husik lives.
Shedding the jazz section of a rainy day record store a week ago is where the silent deliverance and pajama bed-springs of Lida Husik first came to splash. All day, she had been stuck in my head like chambers of squeaking doors all opening and closing, no ripe concentration, sound, sound, sound, entirely swinging in her illusive escape. You know you've either gone crazy or fallin' in love when her music's everywhere through the blind, distracting, never letting up, nearly killing you. The question remains: love, insanity-- what is the difference?
A close musician friend had quietly asked my assistance in scoring him a handful of albums that were more wild and tenacious than the usual standard flock-- the results wore something between Jane Siberry and Archie Shepp, and hell no!! Mc5 was not allowed behind, nor John Coltrane's Black Pearls! Frowning over Trane's section, all too wishing they stocked Tiny Tim or Don Cherry instead, whaddya' know? there must have been four other guys all tootin' his name around me; Coltane? Coltrane? Were you playing Coltrane? Excuse me, is this Coltrane? I swear, there's no other jazz besides Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Sun-Ra out there. As if pacing around the basin waiting for the sherpa to advise them up the infamous mt. Coltrane, there's always been a rattled delay of tourism in his legacy. Especially in those later creations, zonked to planet zoom on a crazed arrest of a-squeakin' and a-squawkin' nowhere; its possessed quality seemingly a spectacle adopted rather cheaply by later experimental wads, leaving doubts (at least in my head) to the entire ecstatic fury, and if I should indeed merely crank up Michael Jackson's Off The Wall until everybody's pissed off enough to merit something to call their own...Besides, not that it's his fault, you just sound like a sap whenever purring about "the affinity of Coltrane"; there's always a keen enough girl in the shadows who knows exactly what you're doing, listening to better-off-dead music under high hopes that that ain't tha' logic spewing, as I jangle on Sun Ship, experiencing a giddy...who the hell knows.
Trapped in such blush circumstances, I alone can only retreat to the nearest warm descent-- if rock ain't doing it (or "cock-rock", as I was told this was my preference) and the parallels to classical are too damn stale to crunch, than it's a bargain bin, a room of 'em, where the faith and perception of linear dreams are lost in a devoted milestone of music-- some rubbish, some kings-- all together singing an unknown galore. After time, keeping pace to the whole "scene", looking up with two healthy eyes, chokes the initial rhythm of music. The sentiments. I realized this after a month of attempted phone calls to Levon Helm in pursuit of a brief interview concerning what the blues had gradually meant to him as the years since The Band have folded through. His roadie instructed me, "Please! no Last Waltz questions", and Levon, a month later, told me to call back next week. I never did. Forget it, it's all there, man. In the music, and the wings they rode in on. Enough. Remember that 90's band Wool? They rock like Jerry Lee Lewis on road-rage. Found 'em for a torn buck. Christ, for such a grand price you might think you were shoplifting, and with such tunes of sizzled chemistry, it might lead you to forget that you indeed were. The whispers of Lida Husik arose.
"Who?" the store clerk asked again; LOUD Charlie Parker barreling in the back-sash. I replied something or other that Lida was this gal outta the electrode underground of the early 90's, her album Bozo in '91, an obscure, psychedelic delight of musical toying and vocal enigma, half of it thawed by the guidance and sonic engineering of Kramer (Bongwater chap), who's aviation between the whole Caroline label has left him a somewhat tone bubble, as well as other watery invasions by Don Zientara-- yet, Bozo was mostly levitated by Husik's multi-instrumental sex of startling tenor noises and gifts. Indeed, it's a strange breed outta the whole tripping clan of post-music, pre-music, a ticket to ride through a rain storm with Syd Barrett arching the sky, if ya know what I mean. "Got a pen? I'll send you a copy when I write about it." Sure.
Well, I didn't say all that much, but enough to detect that most are vague to her whereabouts. It's better this way. When no one knows what you're muttering about, but have the ample curiosity to peek through the curtains and thus see. Very much Lida's Husik's music; startled and amused by its own discreet wonder, surprised by its beautiful severance. I picked up Bozo for a buck at a tag-sale, a former radio-day token, and wiping the lawn off its shadowy clown cover, it was just visible to read the dj's inscription: PLAY THIS UNTIL IT WEARS OUT!!- S.B. He or she then instructed its handler-- me-- to roll through the haze of Jellyfish Kiss, Throwing Muses, and Bongwater albums in order to formally melt these tunes with any high radiance or success. You don't really have to do any of this, 'cept sit back and let it unthread your bones, let it ooze, let it wash. Now, all these bands mentioned here are jive to the idiom of doper-rock and acid vortex that can merely get you wasted and stoned just by listening to the stuff swim-- just like Vegas can rob ya without doing so much than being there. It is a far more tender figment than the straight purple berry of "psychedelia" (jam-band jingo eventually), that, instead of embellishing a sense of place (i.e The Grateful Dead's debut), acts as a crutch in stimulating its audience, doing so until that final stoned bliss, promised by the cloth of promotion and word of mouth, is ultimately reached, the un-answered, entertained (The Dead tour after time). The show ends. Everybody leaves. Work begins like usual the following morning. Until the next time. (Ahh, this Friday.) Yet, Husik's Bozo and the potion between that whole garish era of melt-down trippings, is that the voice and sound freely intoxicates you, suspends, caresses you, until you find yourself freely karate-kicking across the room, smiling, but influenced by no further substance beyond the rising state of the music, the eaves, if not Iliad, to your ear-- baby, you're a rich man. Screw everybody bompin' ad-naseum 'bout John Coltrane at that point. We got that down, bro.
But there's really no parallels to detour Bozo to the drug-culture besides just a simple weightless nourishment that's commonly mistaken as a toked surgery...as I am currently doing now (I can be such an ass when James Brown's playing). With Lida, this is partly because there's no real erected rhythm in any of Bozo; it freaks in a subliminal twang-- rattles ya, assures ya-- mediocre to the point you must gamble it once again, and foremost, plums that 'ol mitten in rock 'n roll, long lost and loved, of having ideal fun. Of taking a few instruments, of splattering the canvas, but NOT of a polyphony of being enslaved by doing so, but of reinventing it, shining, deliberate and dancing. You wanna hear this in anything, as though meeting a girl with an inseparable Jethro Tull to her sway-- this is it, man! the one! the overflowing! Yet, on most occasions, for most of us-- like food and dining-- this rare feeling is left to the rapture of music; listening for Elvis, searching for Elvis, finding punk music, and every so often something rushes by like Bozo. Miracles. A flood! What?! If I live another sixty years and compile a list of two hundred albums, everything else all thrown away while searching and searching, crying and crying, Lida's right in there at No. 157! Taste the Fahrenheit.
It's no surprise I haven't yet talked about the songs. I'm not even playing the record. Or am I? What is it that sound? Me...falling......to........sleep.
Tim Buckley has that one lyric off Happy Sad all real melodic and slow: ...you turn an old man filled with pity/back to a child again...I listen to that verse repeatedly, and always have fun envisioning the full description of Buckley's image. This could be anybody. Give 'em a guitar-- a bunch of guitars-- and a fog-horn casino of vocals, and I swear, man, it's Lida Husik, or the results of doing so. Chirping out of the temple of the D.C. area, there is a tiny resemblance of tired 'ol Kendra Smith and the swing sets of Opal leaking forth, some Yo La Tengo, too-- pan-to-pan voices, a high-pitch choir of 'em-- and with that, 'tis a original bolster towards the poppy whims of space/drone exhilaration relaxing in the whole late 80's new-wave zoom. A private view to Lida's mind undertakes the musical synapse here, almost presenting her days working once at a library while slightly being discovered by vagabond producers, loosing her mother at a young age, all musically balanced by a weird swank of baseball organs, lingering guitar notes, and a steady rhythm of nocturnal melancholy with hefty, possibly kinky, traces of The Beach Boys. You'd think most of it's inspired by the 60's until she begins repeating hateful hippy girls over and over again recoiling with odd pitches of lonely psychedelia. Donovan's For Little Ones airs through, while David Crosby last signatures within If I Could Only Remember My Name beams open in a dreamy quicksand. As if the three women of glass-shattering rock-- Kate Bush, Essra Mohawk, and Laura Nyro-- came to gather 'neath some Dracula tomb, Bozo shines and shuns in such bright extrovert, that you're almost stopping to talk to any random "someone" in the streets; a new world evocative. The second track, "Billboard" (following the whole organ monkey opening with placid, growing lyrics-- which has gotta be one of the strangest things I've heard in a while), Lida straps her Syd Barrett colors on, as noted by my faithful unknown dj friend S.B. who writes through each track listing: "slow, churning, great warped Go-Go's sound...Up-beat and whacked out." Mostly S.B. (hey, maybe he's Syd Barrett) says it's plain schizoid weird-ass whenever he can, and judging from the back cover where Lida holds up goon-clown masks in black 'n white frames of tropical peril (typical and cartoon to her label, Shimmy-Disc), all one can do is project these shades. But bless the lungs who can create such a force. Really. It's the same angelic with any classic Fourth Tops song blaring on top, extra-loud, hello girl, REACH OUT! Patterned below the fuzzed-out charm with songs like "Hitchhiker", accompanied by a few folks here and there, Lida sings out of some unconscious focus between vision and fantasy that we're never really able to comprehend. "Halloween": cuz' there's a party/and everyone's gonna be there/cuz' there's a party/and everyone's gonna be there...It's hushed hypnotically, not understood, but the warmth, familiar, situations, recognizable. Going back to The Fourth Tops (hey man, it's all I've been playing for the past two hours!), soul music proceeds with this same formula; both protesting and believing through the most simplest of measures, allowing space and the overall enjoyment to bulge. Lida's potent secret-- her subrosa-- being able to hit the bone directly indirectly, disguised by her heels of guitar noodling and innovation, exposing the unexposed. Shit, I know that sounds wicked pretentious, but listen to "Mom"-- it drains through perhaps one or two dangling guitar vibrations with an overdrive of Meredith Monk vocal symphony and Nico burrowings. Doo-bee-woo-loo, don't let the day pass on, beneath whispering curtains of "summer dresses/love will do it to you all the time", which if I were to analyze it, knowing that her Mom passed away ages ago, probably references awareness and life shooting through the pale of the day, told in an almost cheesy, musical nirvana-- take hold of it and SPIN! I couldn't ask for more. While listening to "Farmhouse"-- about passing a farm late at night...I think (what? she's outside my house?)-- I gave away to the poetic metaphor, and imagined every housewife in America listening to Bozo while vacuuming the Tuesday noon, and what astonishing creations and perversity might spawn forth out of the experience. 'Cuz look, there's no combative revenge treading here, which rock 'n roll has recently come to inherit. Instead, the jumping crumbs collect the spirit of the 'ol hey-ho/lets-go wisdom, though, documented in a more dream, dreamy, dream, DREAMY!, rocket. Insomnia lurks, too. Like a carnival flashing with hot lights but no ones there, anybody who's suffered this halting disease, knows the insanity involved, evident in both Lida's languid but growing tunes, and clear in the back photo (about thirty years old, I reckon she is) where you catch a glimpse of the artist at break; slighting smiling steady sane. That's who's been singing? Of course women have shared an afflicted time in modern rock, especially in these days, where perhaps except for Bjork, Jane Siberry-- hell, even Joan Jett-- there's an underlying roulette of jadedness in almost every singer buzzing out. The Ani's, the Phair's-- after a while it all becomes a reflection of their own scream. Most times this can't be helped, but Lida (as continues in her advancing albums since Bozo in '91) is relaxed, confident, and totally absent from the hunt of the great, vain manikin.
Pajama-rock, I like to call it. A new name. I let you throw in all the contents later. Make it sure ya' include David Crosby's If I Could Only Remember My Name, though. This is anything that rents a rash limbo-- drowsy, if you may-- shuffling around on the speed of one or two notes, subdued, but ready to fight like hell, and by being present, is more powerful and humble in the long run than anything else charging and controversial. I think I wrote something similar about John Densmore in contrast to Ginger Baker two years back, and though I thought it was nonsense then, I see the truth a-comin to it now. Ornette Coleman's "Peace" for instance-- Charlie Haden's bass taking a few phrases of quiet grindings mid-way, to me, is almost a better release than anything later Coltrane wailed, just 'cuz of its silence, its plenty, its bridge. The grandeur of rock has got a lot to learn from the avenues of Lida. Just listen.
Anyway, indulging in the effects and atmospheric wheeling, you'll be surely dealt the whole Syd Barrett thing cuff off. First of all, Pink Floyd's debut is cool and all, but any crazed music junky knows Ummagumma is their darn best, their essential, their ruby, tha shit. Second of all, Syd Barrett's dated as hell, and when trying to communicate about any other music with people who just wanna pee about The Madcap whirlwind, it's a bit annoying. As avid as I do, I listened to "No Good Trying" the other day trying to make avail outta Syd's whole manic depression, but wound up short. Especially when you think of all the starving artists, blues legends, and disappearances in this fine world, and then there's the myth of Barrett, who's only been exaggerated to such extents 'cuz of a few acid-heads daily try to reenact his alone-in-a-room drug binge...Damn, it's aggravating, if not comical. He knows this 'cuz every time he takes out the trash some paparazzi's there to bowl his face over, for what purposes-- smashed and unable to fulfill two chords thirty years ago, some lost facade-- are unknown. Skip Spence, however, is an entirely different cinema, predominantly 'cuz he was talented and intertwined this with his own warped height and sensitivity. "How will this end?" you ask while listening back-to-back to Spence's blue "Diana" and Husik's similar, shrill closing in "To Virginia". "Will it keep on going? The Bozo. Where are we in this party?"
You feel an element of cool lodging in Lida Husik. That's it. The "Bozo" is either us-- the listeners, me right now-- believing it as a spell of grace, or Husik for creating the love and the insanity.
The stars and planets are out tonight, folks, and people search 'em like a song. They're always there, as is Husik, as are The Four Tops, never failing you, always reliable, consistent for whatever friend in need, for whatever absent note left behind, as we stretch miles to locate the listener, the believer, the song, the bozo.
Jazz, rock, voices-- it never sounded better, Lida. Shine on you crazy diva.
--Carson Arnold - September 11th, 2003
copyright 2003 Carson Arnold
H(ear) is an online music column consisting of interviews and articles written by Carson Arnold. As an independent writer and musician living in the woods of Vermont with his family, Carson widely encourages one to submit their art, writing or any interesting piece of material that you would like to share. H(ear) is accepting both promos and demos for review or any other valuable music-related subjects. If you wish to make a comment or would like to receive H(ear) weekly by email please contact Carson at firstname.lastname@example.org
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