Washington DC native Lida Husik began writing songs in high school; she first played drums in a punk band. After moves to San Francisco and Hoboken, she ended up back in the capital area, where she met scenester Don Fleming. He passed her tape to Shimmy-Disc, whose owner, producer/artist Kramer, clearly heard a kindred spirit in Husik’s psychedelically laced songs. He provided a sympathetic workshop in which she could develop, and produced her first three albums.
A dozen concise numbers, including the Nico-like “Hateful Hippy Girls,” Bozo offers simple but nifty new wave pop with an echoey, ethereal presence. Accompanying herself gently on piano and guitar with only occasional assistance (on drums, mainly) and sparing found-sound samples, Husik sings in an alluringly enervated voice — actually several of them — like a Twin Peaks lounge act.
Issued less than a year later, Your Bag contains half as many songs. Two of them run seven minutes each; “Marcel” and “The Match From Mars” are longer than that. Brimming with the excitement of textural experimentation, Husik — joined by percussionist Jamie Harley — draws elongated instrumental portraits using elementary ingredients. Dreamy, relaxed and occasionally tedious, Your Bag layers a mighty soft bed and then lies in it as if there were nothing else in the world to do. Even the heavy guitars of “Toy Surprise” are as cushiony as a down comforter.
Husik’s final Shimmy-Disc outing, The Return of Red Emma (a name she also recorded under in DC, prior to any label affiliation), brings her back to a baker’s dozen tunes, but the swirling moods seem less to spring mysteriously from the songs themselves — as they do on Bozo — than to be draped over them. It sounds oddly unsettled and tired at the same time.
With greater sonic clarity helping to reveal her progress, Husik tries a few new things on Joyride without abandoning the skills she’s already demonstrated. As usual, she plays most of the instruments except drums herself; despite three producers (including British ambient/techno musician Beaumont Hannant), the gorgeous album maintains a consistent accessibility throughout. Although it gains rock momentum towards the end, the first half of “Mother Richard” makes explicit a ’60s folk-rock element abiding in the previous records (if Mazzy Star ever needs a new vocalist, Husik should definitely be short-listed); “Glorious” flirts with the suave harmony gentility of pop’s neo-jazz stylists; a cover of the Dentists’ “Strawberries Are Growing in My Garden (And It’s Wintertime),” with vocals by that group’s Mick Murphy, is extraordinary pastel-colored psychedelia. Between the intricate vocal arrangements, the endless attractive music and Husik’s inventive playing, Joyride is the pinnacle of her pop art.
Husik then undertook a full-time collaboration with Hannant. Recorded in England, Evening at the Grange features her vocals and guitar floating in and about the architecture of his electronic landscapes. The EP emphasizes pop song structure over sheer ambience and succeeds in that it warms the blank coolness which usually characterizes Hannant’s genre.
Billing themselves as Husikesque, the duo treats, bolsters and coats his programmed beats and electronic music with her atmospheric melodies on Green Blue Fire. Husik’s frequent use of a first-person vantage point in the lyrics also has the effect of presenting a real human being amid all the technology. Built on the foundation of their EP, Green Blue Fire is by turns stark, still and catchy.