Like fellow Paw Tracks artist Ariel Pink, Philadelphian Annie Sachs recognizes the power of tape hiss. Sachs fumbled across the Tickley Feather sound while tooling around with a four-track and a few cheap instruments. Her music is a treacly confection that’s propelled by broken-down beatboxes, buried vocals, bittersweet fairground organ, and heavily treated instrumentation.
A peculiar brand of wide-eyed pop emerges from the restraints that Sachs shackles onto her sound. “The Python” plays out like the most bewitching nursery rhyme you’ve ever heard and is just as catchy as any playground staple. It’s easy to imagine Sachs singing "The Python” to her newborn son while he drifts off to sleep, leaving mom to exorcise the music that rattles around her head before he wakes from his slumber.
At the heart of the Tickley Feather sound lays Sachs’ impenetrable vocals, which often mirror those of fellow Paw Tracks signings Rings. Sachs is from the school of artists who use vocals as just another instrument rather than having them stick out in the mix, and her voice is often subsumed by odd field recordings and the omnipresent organ drones that she leans so heavily on.
Occasionally there’s a genuine tenderness to her wanderings. “Le Daylight” is spun around a beautiful string sample and makes for a great late night torch song. But Sachs never lingers very long on an idea, no matter how good. “Le Daylight” is one of the longest tracks on the record, and it barely fumbles over the two-minute mark.
When she does decide to stretch out, such as on the epileptic, sleaze-ridden electro of “Tonight Is the Nite,” it hints at real possibilities for future Tickley Feather records. Frustration occasionally arises as Sachs cuts genuinely beguiling ideas short — the phantom keyboards of “Lookout What’s Next” seem to be taking her somewhere interesting before she cuts the tape after ninety seconds.
Tickley Feather is a difficult and sometimes agonizing listen, but one that’s pricked with little stabs of honeyed pop that will hook adventurous listeners into Sachs’ dusky world.