Goth, not goth
A chat with Shikhee a/k/a Android Lust
BY MICHAEL FREEDBERG
If you wear a lot of black, enjoy fetish, and do your partying at Man Ray, you almost certainly know the voice of Shikhee -- though not by that name, since "Android Lust" is what she calls herself on record. In an unimaginative and hookless year for goth, Android Lust's new The Dividing has hooks to spare and imagination enough to keep you guessing, or maybe remembering, how it used to be when goth meant Dead Can Dance, Sisters of Mercy, melody and voice, surprise and amazement. The Dividing never misfires; it feels almost -- but not quite -- slick, its arranging smart, its themes ingenious (the lyrics in "The Want" even recall Howlin' Wolf's "I Asked for Water") and knowledgeably Euro. ("Sex and Mutilation" revisits the theme, and exhibits some of the attributes, of "Allan," Mylene Farmer's revelatory work from 1988.) Thick with organ fugues, sharp and soprano, rhythmic as it wants to be, and lush -- but never overboard -- with melodrama and mediaevalism, Shikhee's signature "Division," "Panic Wrought," "Stained," and "Burn" ripple through space like Tori Amos with an angel-dust hangover.
Shikhee in person sounds just as smart, and just as polished, as her music. Like the disco professionals who in the disco era denied making disco music, she rejects the assertion that her music is goth. "I think there are goth elements in it. I just see it as electronic and dark." As for her influences, perish the thought that she should name DCD's Lisa Gerrard. "I've been a fan of Bowie. PJ Harvey, Curve..." One wonders how a girl born in Bangladesh came to embrace a music as Western (as materialistic and decadent) as the stuff she calls "electronic dark." "Yes I was born there," she explains, "but I grew up in England and the USA. I heard industrial and I loved it. Nine Inch Nails, Einsturzende Neubauten. I was in an industrial band. I've lived in New York City since 1999."
The Dividing doesn't sound the least bit industrial, and never as harsh as Trent Reznor, though it reeks of hurt, of lonely lust and feeling dirty, rejection, impatience, anger. "The earlier releases -- they were on Tin Man records, with very little distribution -- were [industrial] like that. This one... it just didn't feel right to do that again. What I wanted here was intensity of emotions, the seriousness of it; it's a music with a lot more honesty. It's not there to please anything. It's personal -- not a commentary on social issues. It's very intimate. It's about what we're taught not to expose."
She has that right, but she cannot accept that her music, as personal as she feels it, fits into, and will be typecast as, a genre for a specific cult audience: "I just hate the way we are classified!" But classified she is, at least here in the US: this Wednesday's Boston-area appearance is set for -- where else? -- Man Ray. "We've been playing a lot of goth clubs," she says with a shrug, a sigh. "In Europe, music is not so classified into small categories." Yet she has only "tentative plans to visit Europe. Germany probably." Germany! The very homeland of goth music and its cult of androids. Oh well.
Andoid Lust appears this Wednesday, November 5, at 9 p.m. at Man Ray, 21 Brookline Street in Central Square; call (617) 864-0400.
Issue Date: October 31 - November 6, 2003