It’s been a long ride since Nicole Skeltys and her band Area 51 were asked to play a Clan Analogue party in the early 1990s. Hooking up with Kate Crawford soon after to form B(if)tek, the duo recorded three albums, several EPs and a sparkling cover of the pop hit ‘Wired for Sound’, as well as setting up the WINK Awards to recognise imaginative electronic art (Cyclic Defrost, September 2003). Along the way, Nicole turned out a series of self-released 12 inch singles as Artificial that merged psychedelic artwork, sexy filtered house grooves and a defiantly lo-fi aesthetic (second album, Libraries Are Fun, got an extra push from libraries in Melbourne and Brisbane), and each record came with a copy of her comic Pigeon Coup. Although less visible in recent years, Nicole has been writing music for theatre, film and television projects, including a Lonely Planet soundtrack with Byron Scullin as The Experts, and a commissioned piece for the Next Wave festival’s aerial dance show Colony. Nicole has steered away from electronic music in recent times, playing a folk-country hybrid with Melbourne five-piece Dust, and, now, as The Jilted Brides with
Tanya Andrea Stadelmann.
The Jilted Brides head to the states in May for an extended tour, where Nicole plans to make a web TV doco on pioneering women in the psychedelic and electronic music community. Here are her records for the road.
Windy and Carl – Consciousness (Kranky, 2001)
This Deerborn Michigan couple produce music that a friend of mind once described as “the sound of love.” Genre descriptions such as “ambient guitar soundscape’, “wall of sound’ and “drone’ fail miserably to capture the astonishing, magical emotional beauty of their pieces. Some folk see these guys as the king and queen of the new psychedelia, and Tanya and I are among them. Windy and Carl have released many albums, including through their own label Blue Flea, all of it marvellous. Consciousness is probably their most finely crafted album. They will be playing at Terrastock (Kentucky, June) where the Jilted Brides are playing too. We anticipate their performance will be one of our life highlights.
Linda Perhacs – Parallelograms (1970, re-released 2003 on Wild Places)
In 1970, a dental technician working in California was persuaded by one of her clients, producer Leonard Rosenbam, to record some of her songs in his studio. This resulting album fell straight to obscurity, known only to devotees of underground folk/psychedelia, and Linda did not produce another album.
Three decades later, the album has been re-released and people are rediscovering this masterpiece, which features breathtakingly delicate vocals, intricate song writing and beautiful manipulation of sounds with tape loops. Linda is now rightfully taking her place as one of the most influential creatrixes in the new folk/psych folk revival, feted by people like Devendara Banhart (but don’ let that put you off). We will be visiting Linda to pay our respects when we get to LA.
Dark Network – Late Set (Creative Vibes, 2003)
This duo (Tim O’Loghlin and Bo Daley) emerged from the murky depths of Canberra’ forest party scene at the same time as B(if)tek. We played a lot with them and considered them our “brother band’. This is their only release. Without doubt, this is one of the most original, deep and infectious electronica releases ever. Listen to the hypnotic thrums, grooves and sighs of the sexiest analogue menagerie ever assembled, realise it was all done live – and weep all you “laptop artists’. If anyone ever does a Classic Electronic Album TV series, I’d like to see these boys recreating those inspired slider moves, knob twiddles and Camberwell carrot sessions!
Laurie Spiegel – Unseen Worlds (Aesthetic Engineering, 1994)
This is a collection of pieces produced between 1987 and 1994 by one the most influential female electronic music pioneers. Her electronic aesthetic is overtly spiritual in nature, deeply feminine and brings great stirrings to the soul. I can’ do better than Terry Riley’ description of her work: â€œAmazing heartfelt molecular inner-happening soundscape soul journeys.â€
Her opus also includes a realisation of Johannes Kepler’s vision of the motions of the planets made audible as music part of which was included on the Voyager Spacecraft record. She created her realisation of Kepler’s ‘Harmony of the World’ at Bell Telephone Labs in 1977, and I have a translucent blue vinyl copy of that which is one of my most precious possessions. The Jilted Brides are catching up with Laurie in New York.
The Handsome Family – Twilight (Carrot Top, 2001)
OK, everyone knows these guys now, but when this album first came out, I felt special because I had just discovered the genre of “gothic country’ and I had found the classic album in the genre, which I preached about to everyone. Dark, funny, tragic, literary, spooky, unique. Live, this New Mexico husband and wife duo come across a bit like an Americana version of Adam and Morticia, with a guitar, banjo, laptop and great little yarns about living with mental illness and the end of the world. Can’ wait to get to Albuquerque!
Neil Young – Decade (Reprise, 1977)
This three album vinyl release collected together Neil’ greatest hits up to that point, as well as memorable album tracks. Neil is justifiably recognised one of the greatest song writers of all time, and he is one of my great personal inspirations. I grew up listening to my older brother’ record collection of which Neil formed a pretty big part and Neil’ guitar sound is as warmly nostalgic and emotionally charged for me as an oversized old blue flannel checked shirt I used to wear all the time as a gawky adolescent. My folk-rock band Dust tried to recreate some of that early “70s Neil Young/Crazy Horse sound in our debut album, Songs, released last year, we at least partially succeeded.
Lucinda Williams – World Without Tears (Lost Highway, 2003)
Here is an example of a woman whose powers of musical and vocal expression are exponentially growing with intensity the older she gets. This CD, and her latest one, West, are almost too emotionally powerful to listen to. Lucinda tells it exactly how it is with raw alt country tunes, tenderly arranged, sung with fire and longing. She sometimes slurs a bit, which is just tremendous. The very best heartbreak ballads and social commentary, tear-streaked but a gun not far away.
Jan and Lorraine – Gypsy People (first released 1969, re-released on Fallout 2006)
The liner notes describe this as â€œAcid-tinged folk and pop, widely acclaimed as one of the best female psychedelic albums of the late “60s.â€ I’d agree with that – with the major rider that this is one of the best psychedelic albums ever, put out by female, male or anything in-between. This is my most recent discovery, I was put onto it this year by a Santa Monica friend who said the the Jilted Brides’ sound reminded him of this album. I was blown away when I tracked it down.
Bursting with energy and ideas, each track is unique and explores new sonic territory. Throughout there are the classic reverb soaked psychedelic girl harmonies, intricate almost progressive rock type arrangements, atmospheric strings, out of tune pianos, crazy sitar-like guitar solos, intelligent, honest lyrics. Jan has sadly passed away now, but Tanya and I are definitely going to try and track down Lorraine (who lives in California) to pay our respects.
Julee Cruise – Floating Into The Night (Warner, 1990).
B(if)tek met Julee Cruise when we went to New York to shoot the filmclip for “Wired For Sound’. She commented at the time that Floating Into the Night was one of those rare creations – a â€œPerfect album.â€ I agree with her – it is perfect in concept, perfect in creating a whole “world unto itself’ atmosphere of decayed “50s satin frocks and empty clubs, perfect hooks, perfect in vocal styling, Badalamenti at his cinematic best. Julee took the Phil Spector dreamy girl group vocals and forged a whole new genre of saccharine-sinister whisper-vocals which has influenced countless singers since, and still gives me goosebumps. And who can listen to “Falling’ without happy memories of hours lost inside Twin Peaks episodes, perched in front of the TV with friends, coffee and donuts!