The last time Tickley Feather released an album was in 2009 with Hors d’Oeuvres. Annie Sachs birthed the musical alter ego Tickley Feather in the early 2000s in Philadelphia. A young single mother, she discovered a love for the worlds she could inhabit with a cassette 4-track, a pair of headphones, thrifted keyboards and a microphone. Sachs speaks of her process as an improvisation, creating a sound once and then moving on to the next. She continues to utilize her 4-tracks to record music.
Now, Tickley Feather has returned to the music world with the TICKLEY FEATHER 1 2 3, released on Bandcamp last week. The album has been dug out of the archives, as it was first recorded in 2010. Friends and collaborators of Tickley Feather — Avery Tare and Deakin of Animal Collective — invited Tickley Feather to their rural studio inside an old church in New York, also known as the Good House. This wasn’t the first of their collaborations, as Animal Collective released Tickley Feather’s first two albums on their label Paw Tracks.
It’s unclear what happened in the space of the past 11 years that reunited the group to polish off the nine songs and release them now. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia of the pandemic, a longing for the past. Whatever the reason, the process of coming back to these songs so many years later was likely new to Sachs, an artist usually more partial to improvisation. The release of the album feels like a secret carnival known only to fans of Animal Collective or past Tickley Feather fans, and she invites us to take a ride on her personal carousel of magic.
The tracks themselves prove the timelessness of indie music from that era. The first track, “Cow Man,” feels like stepping onto this carousel as it first begins, moving slowly and gaining momentum. There are layers of sound beneath Sachs’s voice, yet the lyrics of the song are able to take up the space they need; her voice climbs up your spine as the centerpiece lyrics begin with “feel it coming” and end with “gonna blow up the whole world.”
“Red Kimono” is another standout track on the album. It seems to represent the improvisation that Sachs is so keen on, starting off sounding like a UFO landing, then building into layers of lyrics trampling on top of one another until they break into sounds that resemble that of butterfly wings beating. The track strips back down to the UFO sounds and Sachs’s singular voice turns into echoes of itself.
The next track, “All In White,” uses a sound that evokes falling rain. This track makes one imagine the old church the song was conceived in, perhaps on a rainy day, with Sachs’s voice echoing across the vast ceiling. The drums on the track are muffled in the background, sounding almost like a knock on the church doors.
The final track, “Warmth,” presents itself like a summer’s day. The most upbeat of all the tracks, it moves quickly and loudly, like the peak moment of a ride on a carousel before the dizziness sets in, and you feel free as the wind blows through you and the crowd blurs.
The album itself is one to sit with, one to grow with and one to move into the change of seasons with. At first listen, it might not seem like the most mind-blowing record you’ve listened to, but try it on again and again, and soon enough you will be wanting to share it with everyone you know.
TICKLEY FEATHER 1 2 3 is out now on Bandcamp along with the vinyl release, and a deluxe edition with three photo prints from the archives, if you are a Tickley Feather and Animal Collective connoisseur.
Daily Arts Writer Katy Trame can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.