Lida Husik
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
Bozo, 8/10
Your Bag, 7.5/10
The Return Of Red Emma, 8/10
Evening At The Grange, 6/10 (EP)
Joyride, 7/10
Green Blue Fire, 6.5/10
Fly Stereophonic, 6.5/10
Faith In Space , 5/10
Mad Flavor , 6.5/10

Already early in her career, Lida Husik couldn't decide whether she wanted to be a popster or a sound painter. Bozo (1991), produced by Kramer, was a collection of ethereal and dreamy lullabies for voice, guitar, organ and beats. Each song was programmed to sink slowly into the listener's subconscious, like a magic potion. Your Bag (1992), on the other hand, was devoted to experimental compositions based on collage techniques. Both albums were drenched into hallucinogens. As she emerged from the haze of drugs, Husik turned to the political stance of The Return Of Red Emma (1993), which sounded like a theater piece set to a vast catalog of possible musics. Leaving behind the hallucinated nightmares of her acid-induced early years, Husik regressed to the childish folk tunes of Joyride (1995) and Fly Stereophonic (1997), which were also her most touching works (particularly the former), while, at the same time, venturing into electronica with the astral lounge music of Green Blue Fire (1996), a collaboration with ambient specialist Beaumont Hannant, and with the trance-collages of Mad Flavor (1999), which were, first and foremost, aural experiences.
Full bio.
(Translation from the Italian by Nicole Zimmerman)

Lida Husik, aka Red Emma, instrumentalist and vocalist, made only brief appearances on others' albums before recording her own in 1991: Bozo (Shimmy Disc), supported by Kramer on guitar.

Born in 1962 and raised in Washington, she was the drummer for Missing In Action during the punk-rock boom. A fan of hallucinogens and militant feminism, she was drafted by Fleming of the Velvet Monkeys for a few days, and finally discovered by Kramer. Husik poured out her passion for psychedelic culture in her art. Her first 2 albums were recorded under the influence of massive doses of drugs. The anemic apathy of her compositions were decisively that of Syd Barrett, mediated by 2 decades of experiments by female songwriters (Jane Siberry, Kendra Smith, Enya, Laurie Anderson); but the guitar chords and ethereal vocals were both a` la Midcap Laugh (and the melody of Billboard was almost a plagiarism). In her recording as a young girl, just slightly hoarse (an octave lower than Madonna), Husik mechanically whispered tenuous, naive refrains. She was not as boring as Lydia Lunch but she was just as detached from the lyrics she was singing. The "other" voice in the songs was the organ - "acidic" and melodic, a counterpoint that was at the same time classic and experimental. The arrangement did not use much more than the vocals and organ. In the end, the atmosphere seemed as if it emerged from a dream (Mom) or hallucination (California Oregon). Emblematic of her style was the mode in which she elaborated on the superb melodies of the 60's in the light of minimalism in the title-track. From this highly creative and suggestive method came visionary ballads like Diamond Day and intimate tracks a` la Hatfield such as Halloween, ethereal marches a` la Enya such as Snow and ethnic-funk nightmares such as Farmhouse. Husik's playful and mischievous self-portrait was Hateful Hippy Girls. Husik's was an impressionist art, of small strokes, and cubism, of decomposition and recomposition; a romantic art, of frail emotions, and surrealism, of hallucinations. At the end of the same year, Husik had her second album ready. Your Bag (Shimmy Disc, 1992), which was different from the first above all in the duration and refinement of the tracks. If these remained the fundamental components of the sound, the execution would have touched upon the intensity of the albums of Siberry. It was Laurie Anderson however that inspired Your Bag, the most danceable and airy track, and above all the nursery rhyme of Toy Surprise (which featured 2 intertwined and overlapping melodic themes, a classical accompaniment, and resulted in a dissonant raga played over the span of 7 minutes). The mediocre tone seemed distant from the song: Husik loved to immerse herself in a very open atmosphere, impalpable and hypnotic, by way of comatose psychedelic chants (such as Whirlybird, 7 minutes in length). In the pace of Marcel (9 minutes) the harmony breaks into small pieces of chords, held together by a mechanical rhythm, while Husik's voice floats weightlessly. Another novelty was the vocals by Husik, always limited to the same octave, with a bit more inflection. Her voice could even take the form of a delicate ballet as in Ship Going Down. The finale, The Match From Mars, was completely different and perhaps foreshadowed a sensational metamorphosis: a sort of "industrial" suite lasting 10 minutes, assembling "found" voices, sampling, techno rhythms, and electronic noise. The Return Of Red Emma was her first work not composed and performed under the influence of hallucinogens, and signaled a return to her political commitments of the past. The album surpassed even the post-feminist, hyper-realistic paranoids but confirmed a personal musicality, aesthetic and eccentricity without being arrogant. Dreamy and anxious in AZT NO and in a trance-lullaby in Happy, Husik certainly committed to memory the lesson of psychedelia, but matched it with a quiet pop sensibility (like the catchy Highgate), and a propensity for the avant-garde. This last aspect, the most intellectual aspect in her art, transpired in the formats of jazz and experimentation in Light Of The Day and Pyramus And Thisbe or in the ethnic hybrids such as the Native American dance song Hopi Ants (one of the better numbers) and the stripped down Earthquake Blues. Only in Back In The March were "hard" sounds allowed a` la L7. For the remainder of the tracks, she was never disorganized, wild or sarcastic; sometimes insecure, sometimes lewd; always contorted and lethal, a hybrid of Carla Bley, Nico, and Jane Siberry. Her strength was the hallucinogenic, depressing stories she told such as in Suicide Sedan or Hemlock, sung in a lounge style: indifferent, mechanical, and more infantile than anything else, but immersed in an atmosphere of fatality or madness. The folk fable titled Matchgirl was unrelenting; one of her most lyrical and terrifying tracks.

The arrangements (by Kramer) were almost perfect: faint instrumentals which were never prominent, guitar and keyboard subtly providing back up for the vocals, occasionally an accordion or flute can be heard for a few seconds. The majority of Husik's music was roots rock, unspoiled by sophistication or baroque influences.

The project that followed Red Emma was a collaboration with British musician Beaumont Hannant. It was titled Sculputred (1994). Husik had the opportunity to hone her skills as a performer on the EP titled Evening At The Grange (Astralwerks, 1995). Promenade combined the vain babble of Enya and the rippling minimalism of Terry Riley; in Gregory Peck it was as if the Cocteau Twins recruited Meredith Monk (interdisciplinary performer active in theater productions). Textured further refined Husik's style, indulging in electronic effects and the dilation of vocals. This experimentation brought her to the area of new age in Now I'm Older Silver Girl, worthy of the synthetic symphonic scores by Vangelis as in Starbust 7.

Shaking off the cobwebs, Husik put hallucinating arrangements in the past and adopted the psychedelic song styled created by Kramer. Joyride (Caroline, 1995) was more professional than the previous album despite the fact that Husik had to play almost all of the instruments herself and superimposed their music, and despite the fact that it was basically a collection of demos. Having decreased her dependence on marijuana, she demonstrated real musical talent as well as the eccentric genius for which she became known. More musician than artist, Husik abandoned the maddening accompaniment which focused almost exclusively on the "acidic" sound on organ and established a respectable one-woman-band. As a singer, she was at the peak of her metamorphosis, going from a wild garage rocker ( Mother Richard), to a Broadway singer from the 50's ( Glorious), then to a boring and sleepy vocalist like Nico (Flower Of The Hour) and then to a grumbling blues singer (Midnight Of Life). Her psychedelic nightmares returned with the most spatial and bewildering songs, Joyride and Star (a remake of Starbust), and in two gems: Donkey Pot and Dream Lake, freed by hallucinogenics of the Jefferson Airplane variety. The experiments of the preceding EP yielded the techno variations of Persinthia Lawdro & John, with some of the most daring, acrobatic vocals.

Lida Husik and Beaumont Hannant found themselves together in the studio again, this time masquerading as Husikesque. On Green Blue Fire (Astralwerks, 1996) Husik was in command and listeners could hear the difference. The dreamy melodies of Bird, Bad Head Day and Just Like Candy had a numbing house beat and the electronic arrangement by her partner. The ethereal lullabies of Haunt Me and Soul Of Gold lived in limbo in a galactic Renaissance. The psychedelic musician of earlier albums was gone, instead taking the form of cosmic diva in the funky-soul, cocktail lounge style of Wonderland. Her voice and lyrics were beacons of light in the dark environment of Hannant. Husik relocated to Los Angeles and recorded Fly Stereophonic (Alias, 1997), that backtracked, returning to a rock formation and pop style song. The album seemed to be a collection of unpretentious jingles, elementary motives, and humble arrangements. The manifestation of this new path was found in the swinging, celestial rhyme of the title-track, suspended on the soft strumming of guitar. This was the tone most recognized by the surreal personality. The other gems of the album were variations of the same theme, a bit spatial in Sharon Hill Shadows and a bit childlike in Chocolate City, ending with the fairytale of Cafe' Con Leche (counted as one of her masterpieces).

There was another Husik, a Husik that was nervous and intellectual, that was peeking out from Soundman ( with a fanfare of horns) and above all Death Trip (with African rhythms and organ), it was perhaps one of the last hallucinations for this drug addict, or perhaps it was a prelude to new adventures. Finally Husik was able to create Dancing Pants, with beats made by bagpipes. This was from a mature Husik, free from drugs, an intelligent and surreal musician, but at the same time with a simple and direct way of communicating. At times, her music seemed to be a mix of Indigo Girls and the Raincoats.

Faith In Space (Alias, 1998) treasured the experiment of The Match From Mars and the albums with Hannant, and above all adopted a techno beat. There was a limit to what would regulate her inspiration, however, and in the footsteps of Donna Summer (Hannant in the shoes of Giorgio Moroder), as in Angels On The Floor, Husik became just as good a singer. This continued in Dissolve and Waterfall, where it seemed as if Enya was catapulted into a science fiction film or, even worse, a videogame.

Lida Husik, o Red Emma, polistrumentista e cantante, aveva fatto soltanto delle brevi comparse su dischi altrui prima di registrare nel 1991 l'album Bozo (Shimmy Disc), coadiuvata dalla scuderia di Kramer.

Nata nel 1962, cresciuta a Washington, batterista per i Missing In Action durante il boom del punkrock, ghiotta di allucinogeni e militante femminista, arruolata da Fleming nei Velvet Monkeys per qualche giorno, e infine scoperta da Kramer, Husik riversa nella sua arte la passione per la cultura psichedelica. I suoi primi due dischi sono stati registrati sotto l'effetto di dosi massicce di droga.

Il languore anemico delle sue composizioni e' decisamente quello di Syd Barrett, mediato da due decenni di esperimenti sul canto d'autore femminile (Jane Siberry, Kendra Smith, Enja, Laurie Anderson); ma tanto gli accordi di chitarra quanto i vocalizzi eterei sono quelli di Madcap Laugh (e la melodia di Billboard e' quasi un plagio). Nel suo registro da ragazzina, appena venato di raucedine (un'ottava piu' in basso di Madonna), Husik bisbiglia meccanicamente ritornelli tenui e ingenui, come un carillon. Non e' annoiata come Lydia Lunch, ma e' altrettanto distaccata dalle liriche che canta. L'altra "voce" delle sue canzoni e' l'organo, "acido" e melodico, un contrappunto al tempo stesso classico e sperimentale.
L'arrangiamento non impiega molto di piu' della voce e dell'organo. Alla fine le atmosfere sembrano uscire da un sogno (Mom) o dilatate dalla droga (California Oregon). Emblematico del suo stile e' il modo in cui elabora alla luce del minimalismo la superba melodia Sixties della title-track. Da questo metodo altamente creativo e suggestivo possono scaturire anche ballate visionarie come Diamond Day e quadretti intimisti alla Hatfield come Halloween, marcette eteree alla Enja come Snow e incubi etno-funky come Farmhouse. Husik da' anche il proprio autoritratto nella scherzosa e maliziosa Hateful Hippy Girls. E' un'arte impressionista, di piccoli tocchi, e cubista, di scomposizioni e ricomposizioni; e' un'arte romantica, di gracili emozioni, e surrealista, di allucinazioni.

Alla fine dello stesso anno Husik ha gia' pronto il secondo disco, Your Bag (Shimmy Disc, 1992), che si differenzia dal precedente soprattutto nella durata e rarefazione dei brani. Se le componenti fondamentali del sound sono sempre quelle, l'esecuzione lambisce l'intensita' dei dischi di Siberry. E' pero' Laurie Anderson ad ispirare Your Bag, il brano piu' ballabile ed arioso, e soprattutto la filastrocca per bambini di Toy Surprise (che sfoggia due temi melodici sovrapposti e intrecciati, e un accompagnamento classicheggiante, e infine da` luogo a un raga cacofonico, nell'arco di sette minuti). Il tono medio e' pero' lontanissimo dalla canzone: Husik ama immergersi in atmosfere dilatatissime, impalpabili, ipnotiche, attraverso le cantilene psichedeliche piu' languide (come Whirlybird, sette minuti). Di questo passo in Marcel (nove minuti) l'armonia si sgretola in piccole nebulose di accordi, tenute assieme da una cadenza meccanica, mentre la voce fluttua senza peso.
Un'altra novita' e' che il canto di Husik, sempre limitato a quell'ottava sbiadita, e' un po' piu' modulato. Puo' cosi' prendere forma anche una ballata in punta di piedi come Ship Going Down. Il finale, The Match From Mars, e' tutto diverso e preannuncia forse una clamorosa metamorfosi: una sorta di suite "industriale" di dieci minuti che accumula voci trovate, campionamenti, ritmi techno, disturbi elettronici.

The Return Of Red Emma e' la sua prima opera a non essere composta ed eseguita sotto l'effetto degli allucinogeni, e segna un ritorno all'impegno politico di un tempo. Il disco eccede anzi nei temi post-femministi, iper-realisti, paranoici, ma conferma una musicalita' tutta personale, ascetica ed eccentrica senza essere altezzosa. Sognante e trepida in AZT NO, in trance nella ninnananna lisergica di Happy, Husik ha certamente mandato a memoria la lezione della psichedelia, ma l'ha sposata a una quieta sensibilita' pop (come nell'orecchiabile Highgate), e a una propensione per l'avanguardia da sottoscala. Quest'ultima, l'aspetto piu' colto della sua arte, trapela nei formati jazzati e sperimentali di Light Of The Day e Pyramus And Thisbe, o in ibridi etnici come la danza pellerossa di Hopi Ants (uno dei numeri migliori) e lo spoglio Earthquake Blues.
Soltanto in Back In The March si concede a sonorita' "dure" alla L7. Per il resto, mai scapigliata, selvaggia o sarcastica, donna ora insicura ora lasciva, sempre contorta e malsana, conia un ibrido di Carla Bley, Nico, Jane Siberry. Il suo forte sono certamente le storie allucinate e deprimenti di Suicide Sedan o Hemlock, cantate in un tono da "cocktail lounge", piu' che altro indifferente, meccanico, persino infantile, ma immerse in atmosfere fatali o comunque folli. E brividi non meno sinistri comunica la fiaba folk di Matchgirl, affidata a uno dei suoi testi al tempo stesso piu' lirici e terribili.

Gli arrangiamenti (di Kramer) sono praticamente perfetti: strumenti centellinati, mai prominenti, chitarra e tastiere appena piu' vicini alla voce, ogni tanto una fisarmonica o un flauto che fanno capolino per pochi secondi. Il grosso della musica di Husik e' rock delle radici, non va contaminato con sofisticatezze o barocchismi.

Il progetto successivo a Red Emma e' una collaborazione con il musicista elettronico britannico Beaumont Hannant, Sculptured (1994). L'EP Evening At The Grange (Astralwerks, 1995), un'operina surreale in cui Husik ha modo di mettere a fuoco le sue doti di performer. Promenade fonde il vanesio blaterare di Enya e l'ondulante minimalismo di Terry Riley; e in Gregory Peck e' come se i Cocteau Twins avessero assunto Meredith Monk. Textured raffina ulteriormente quell'arte, indulgendo negli effetti elettronici e nella dilatazione dei vocalizzi. La sperimentazione la porta in area new age con Now I'm Older Silver Girl, degna delle partiture sinfonico-sintetiche di Vangelis, e in area house con Starbust 7.

Lacerate le ragnatele del suo grigio incubo, Husik relega a cimelio storico gli arrangiamenti allucinati degli esordi e adotta lo standard di canzone psichedelica coniato da Kramer. Joyride (Caroline, 1995) e' cosi' un disco ancor piu' professionale del precedente, nonostante Husik debba suonare quasi tutti gli strumenti da sola e sovrapporre il proprio canto per le armonie vocali, nonostante si tratti, insomma, di una raccolta di demo. Ripulitasi (parzialmente) della dipendenza dalla marijuana, Husik si scopre dotata di vero talento musicale, oltre che del genio eccentrico per cui era nota. Meno artista e piu' musicista, Husik abbandona gli accompagnamenti da ospedale psichiatrico che vertevano quasi esclusivamente sul timbro "acido" del suo organo, e mette in piedi una "one-woman-band" di tutto rispetto.
Come cantante e' al culmine delle sue capacita' di metamorfosi, ora nei panni di una selvaggia rocker da garage (Mother Richard) ora in quelli di una chanteuse di Broadway negli anni '50 (Glorious), ora in quelli di una Nico stanca e annoiata (Flower Of The Hour) e ora in quelli di una ringhiosa blues-singer (Midnight Of Life). Ai suoi incubi psichedelici ritorna con le due canzoni piu' spaziali e stralunate, Joyride e Star (rifacimento di Starbust), e in due chicche, Donkey Pot e Dream Lake, librate da allucinogeni della varieta' Jefferson Airplane. Gli esperimenti dell'EP precedente fruttano le variazioni techno di Persinthia Lawdro & John, con alcune delle acrobazie vocali piu' ardite.

Lida Husik e il britannico Beaumont Hannant si ritrovano in studio insieme, questa volta mascherati da Husikesque. Su Green Blue Fire (Astralwerks, 1996) e` pero` Husik a comandare il gioco, e la differenza si fa sentire. Le melodie sognanti di Bird, Bad Head Day e Just Like Candy narcotizzano le pulsazioni house e gli arrangiamenti elettronici del partner. Le cantilene eteree di Haunt Me e Soul Of Gold vivono in un limbo di Rinascimento galattico. Scomparsa la folle musicista psichedelica dei primi album, sta prendendo forma una mutazione astrale delle dive funky-soul del cocktail lounge (Wonderland). La sua voce e le sue liriche sono il faro che illumina le fosche distese ambientali di Hannant.

Husik si trasferisce a Los Angeles e registra Fly Stereophonic (Alias, 1997), che fa marcia indietro e ritorna alla formazione rock e alla canzone pop. Il disco si presenta anzi come una raccolta di canzoncine senza pretese, di motivetti elementari e di arrangiamenti umili. Il manifesto del nuovo corso e` la filastrocca swingante ed eterea della title-track, sospesa a un tenue strimpellio di chitarra. E` quello il tono piu` consono alla sua surreale personalita`. Le altre gemme del disco sono infatti variazioni sullo stesso tema, un po' piu` spaziale quella di Sharon Hill Shadows e un po' piu` infantile e jingle jangle quella di Chocolate City, fino all'apice fiabesco di Cafe` Con Leche, da annoverarsi fra i suoi capolavori.
C'e` un'altra Husik, una Husik nervosa e intellettuale, che fa capolino da Soundman (con fanfara di fiati) e soprattutto Death Trip (con poliritmi africani e organetto da spiaggia), ma forse e` soltanto una delle ultime allucinazioni della tossicodipendente, oppure prelude a nuove avvincenti avventure. C'e` infine la Husik capace del melange di Dancing Pants, una sorta di dub con cornamusa scozzese. Quella della matura Husik, liberata dalle pastoie degli stupefacenti, e` una musica intelligente e surreale, ma al tempo stesso dotata di una comunicativa semplice e diretta. A tratti sembra di ascoltare un incrocio fra le Indigo Girls e le Raincoats.

Faith In Space (Alias, 1998) fa tesoro dell'esperimento di The Match From Mars e dei dischi con Hannant, e soprattutto adotta il battito del techno. C'e` un limite a quanto si puo` irreggimentare la sua ispirazione pero`, e nei panni della Donna Summer (Hannant in quelli di Giorgio Moroder), come in Angels On The Floor, Husik diventa una cantante come tante. Si riprende in Dissolve e Waterfall, dove pero` sembra Enya catapultata in un film di fantascienza o, peggio, in un videogame.

Husik has matured as arranger, if not as composer, and Mad Flavor (Alias, 1999) is, first and foremost, an aural experience. This dreamy sound collage, that is also incidentally structured in songs, does to trip-hop what Frank Zappa's We're Only In It For The Money did to Merseybeat: it dismembers a genre and uses the parts to compose a symphonic work. (Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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