Word of mouth counts a lot these days. Especially when it comes from underground music heroes such as Animal Collective, an experimental pop group constantly heralded by the tastemakers at Pitchfork.com.
The solo electronic artist Tickley Feather (aka Annie Sachs) has opened shows for A.C. in the past. Her still-blossoming voice at times recalls both the Icelandic coolness of Björk and the dreamy lustfulness of Southern indie-rock diva Chan Marshall (Cat Power). Accompanied by her own lo-fi beats and cheap keyboards, Sachs stirs a bewitching pot of minimalist electronic dance music that plays like haunted nursery rhymes for the graffiti-and-designer-jeans set.
Hype is building around her self-titled debut album (released on vinyl April 2) on the Paw Tracks label, another project from the A.C. guys. The Philadelphia Weekly put Sachs on its cover in January with the headline story, "Philly's Biggest Indie Bands of '08." But the little lady also has a connection with Virginia, having grown up in Lexington and later moving to Richmond to attend Virginia Commonwealth University.
"I went to VCU for a few years and studied 'sewing,'" Sachs writes via e-mail, "but mainly studied troublemaking." While she wasn't widely known as a musician during her time here, she did make strides in her evolution as an artist. She's since recorded a split 7-inch record with "special friend" Jason Hodges of the local tropical/noise group Bermuda Triangles.
"To share a record with him was a dream come true. ...," she writes. "Back in the day I struggled really hard to keep up with those CNP Records boys [a local label]. When he asked me to take part, I was already living in Philly and some years had passed, but I felt it was a real honor, like I finally passed the test."
Sachs notes that the whole crowd at CNP Records, which includes abrasive local rockers such as The Amoeba Men and The Yes Sirs, had a major influence on her musically and propelled her in the pursuit of her own strange sound. It all goes to prove that Richmond has a respectable cutting-edge music scene for a city its size -- in addition to plenty of cheapskates and rabble-rousers.
"We used to get drunk then go shuffling up and down the alleys at night hooting and hollering," Sachs writes, "banging on trash cans and stomping our feet in rhythm, on and on for blocks, like a sort of spontaneous mobile caveman noise project."
It was during her Richmond years that she got her first Tascam four-track recorder. "I had a great time learning how to use it by recording my friends getting loopy and showing off their sounds at my house one afternoon," she writes. "I still have that tape and it's a real joy to listen back to 'peeing in a saucepan' and 'zippers going up and down fast.'"
Sachs relocated to Philly about five years ago, right after getting pregnant. Her young son, Aiden, makes a few guest appearances on the new album, delivering creepy little proclamations between songs such as "I've got magic inside my bones somewhere" and "The bone hits it with a drumstick and then your skin has a switch." The kid might have a future writing another "Silence of the Lambs" sequel.
We'll have to wait to see if her album which sounds a little rough because it's a compilation of demos she recorded over the last four years can earn a widespread audience. One thing is certain: You can chalk up another less-than-perfect date album for skinny indie dudes. S