Animal Instinct

By Jeremy Butman
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 20, 2009

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To hear Annie Sachs, aka Tickley Feather, discuss the success of her music is like watching a person swat away mosquitos. She's not ungrateful for the attention, but unlike so many fame-obsessed musicians who perform in hopes of printed glamour shots and sprawling interviews, to her fanfare is a distraction--a threat almost. 

"I don't understand what people like about my music," she says. �€�

Allow me to tell her: Tickley Feather's songs are off-kilter, homemade bits of thick, distorted synth composition. She records everything--drum sounds included--with a keyboard and the densely layered sound that's the sonic equal of a tough pull of taffy. Like the New York subway system, there are untold levels above and below, emanating eerie and powerful vibrations. Yet her vocals cut through this and seem to float, even shimmer above the music's dense tapestry. Her voice can feel both full and breathy, urgent but resolute. �€�

Sachs has done little to promote her own music. It was Badmaster Records founder John Emory, a longtime friend, who convinced her to transfer the recordings from her four-track to CD. When he encouraged her to cut the songs on vinyl, she responded with a characteristically charming self-slight, "That's crazy."

The 7-inch that resulted, however (a split with another West Philly outfit, Serpents of Wisdom), proved the idea was perfectly sane. �€�When Emory gave a copy to popular New York band Animal Collective, they loved it. Suddenly, with only a few performances under her belt--"I had played like 12 house shows to my friends"--Tickley Feather was opening for Panda Bear, a side project of Animal Collective, at the First Unitarian Church to an audience of 500. 

Pleased with the performance, the band proposed she open for them on the first leg of their national tour and offered to release her first full-length album on their record label Pawtracks. �€�

It's not surprising that Animal Collective took a liking to Sachs' music. The two share an abnormal compositional style. But while Animal Collective sprawl into a jammy, experimental arena, pushing outward on the borders of traditional song structure, Tickley Feather undermines the norm by pulling those borders in. Her songs are allusions to "proper" verse-chorus-verse songs. They feel like snippets of an ongoing soundtrack to a never-ending movie, each one a clip randomly spliced. They work best when collected, reflecting off one another, confounding a sense of wholeness.�€�

"That style has developed out of a lack of skill," she says without a hint of pandering. "I write music by instinct." Sachs has never taken a piano lesson, and when compared to other artists like Gilli Smith or Kate Bush (who bare an oblique resemblance, if any) she says she'd never listened to them before the comparisons. "I'm totally out of the loop," she says.�€�

Sachs has released two only 7-inch splits--the one on Badmaster Records and another on CNP records, with Bermuda Triangles. For her full-length she put together a collection of older songs, which have just been mixed to her great delight. �€�

You can pick her new self-titled album up at her show. Arrive early and eat cupcakes prepared by Sachs herself.

Tickley Feather
Fri., May 9, 7pm. Free. With Swim Past, Akasha Blade, Faded Gory + Phill Sheldon's Cat Fancy. Danger Danger Gallery, 5013 Baltimore Ave. www.myspace.com/dangerdangergallery

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