Quenching anticipation after her two-song appetizer on a scrumptious split EP with Low this summer, k. (aka Karla Schickele of Ida and Beekeeper) drops off a stoned soul picnic of 12 more tiny explosions with her solo full-length debut, New Problems.
The 18-second opener, cutely named “*,” hints at an experimental, yet playful (perhaps even prankish) tone. While the sounds suggest xylophone, clinking wine glasses, gradually filled water glasses and dripping water, it’s the only track without liner credits. She’s either teasing stern “now” composers who believe the listener shouldn’t be able to discern the sound sources in “new” music or maybe she was just respecting that belief. Either way, it’s nice — and short-lived — as it blends immediately into a very classic-sounding violin-voice duet with piano accompaniment.
Highlights include “Knoxville,” a chaotic, dark and folky almost-hoedown performed with friends from Retsin and Ida; “Telegram,” which matches Sylvia Plath’s words with fleeting sample distraction and Karla’s subdued voice and guitar; and the strong, short and sweet closer, “Poor Dumb Bird (demo).” Her bendable bass playing unsurprisingly finds itself at center stage in a few tracks and the lyrics will fit suspiciously snugly within the listener’s own despair. It’s almost as if the same individuals have wrung out both of our hearts, leaving us to crack and dry in the sun. “Just as I’m about to leave you high and crying/Worn out by your honesty and all my lying/I don’t know/I could never walk away/you keep me guessing.”
If songs were photographs, the two vocal duets Karla performs with Babe the Blue Ox’s Rose Thomson would be the negatives in the front pocket of a package of Ida pictures — thick, blunt and stretchy as opposed to sustained, mysterious and wispy. Rather than punk sentiments delicately washed in acoustic guitar, violin and whispered harmonies so pretty they hurt, Karla’s songs in Ida records mildly stand out from the litter like courageous little runts, scrubbed with Brillo pads and scabbed over. She develops that sound in k. She’s the sole confident alto belting out show tunes a tad louder than the rest of the girl’s choir. She’s part of a lucky group of women who appear to have hung onto just a scrap of that aplomb and oblivious trust of childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. The songs do have a sense of fragility to them, some even appear purposely unfinished, but the overwhelming feeling you get is one of awkward confidence, as though she is literally putting her entire being into each note, which is very refreshing.
k. performs tonight, Wed., Oct. 17 at detroit contemporary with Lenola.
Melissa Giannini is the Metro Times staff music writer. E-mail her at [email protected].