Sharps and Flats: lida husik

By Keith Moerer

Published July 8, 1997 7:00PM (EDT)

Rock history is full of studio obsessives bent on doing everything themselves. But even the most talented loner can run out of ideas, building sonic monuments so "perfect" they sound manufactured by machine. Where Prince once qualified as a self-contained genius, now he's just another isolated egomaniac, declining in musical prowess and commercial pull.

Though essentially a one-woman show, Lida Husik doesn't quite fit this mold. Raised on the Washington, D.C., punk scene, she's a good musician but not a virtuoso on any of the instruments she plays (primarily guitar and a variety of keyboards). She alternates between recording rock albums by herself and collaborating with British ambient producer Beaumont Hannant. To me, these latter albums sound half-formed and half-satisfying, but working with someone else seems to charge Husik up for records of her own, like her fifth solo album, "Fly Stereophonic."

Husik's music is clearly the sum of her inspirations: '60s psychedelia, '70s sci-fi movies and '90s indie-rock. It doesn't sound like a promising combination, but Husik compresses these elements into three-minute confections that sound like pop hits from another galaxy. Part of the reason is Husik's voice, a soprano multi-tracked so many different ways it can make the most prosaic, repeated line -- "We said we'd wait for you" -- seem like some sort of sad, bizarre mantra. Though every vocal, guitar and keyboard part belongs to Husik, she relinquishes the rhythms to bassist Charles Steck and a percussionist who calls himself The Rummager. At times, they lend a dance-music edge to songs such as "Chocolate City" and "Soundman" (on the latter, Husik laments, "Drummer's on the lam and I do not have a band/No, you will not have a band tonight"). Even at her most conventional -- say, "Fade Sister Cool" -- Husik reminds me of Sleater-Kinney singing dream-pop.

The riskiest experiment on "Fly Stereophonic" is also the most exhilarating: "Dancing Pants" sounds like a klezmer band playing a hybrid of techno and reggae with Karen Carpenter on lead vocals. It ends with a duet between a synthesized horn section and the celestial bagpipes of guest Eugene Bogan. Naturally, Husik name-checks the cult TV show "Mystery Science Theater 3000" along the way. Maybe she's a shut-in after all, but at least she's capable of imagining worlds better than the one she currently inhabits.

Keith Moerer

Keith Moerer is a regular contributor to Salon.

MORE FROM Keith Moerer

Related Topics ------------------------------------------