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k. (Karla Schickele)

Some of you may already be familiar with Karla Schickele as a bass player and occasional songwriter for the folk-flavored low-key indie pop band Ida or the quietly complex, now-defunct indie rock group The Beekeeper. In 2000, though, she went solo, using only her first initial to identify herself to the world, and began recording material that displays the tendencies of both her other groups. Solo doesn't mean alone, however, as Schickele enlisted the aid of a number of her accomplished friends in recording her first full-length album, New Problems. Chief among them is the similarly minded Tara Jane O'Neil (Rodan, Retsin), who recorded many of the songs on the album and played drums on a few tracks. Cynthia Nelson (Retsin, Ruby Falls, The Naysayer), Rose Thompson (Babe the Blue Ox), and Schickele's Ida bandmates all show up from time to time as well.

If you're not listening too carefully, k. might sound like intelligent but fairly conventional lo-fi coffeehouse singer-songwriter fare, but Schickele's compositions are surprisingly complex, given their presentation. What's more, she adds a lot of little sounds that go a long way: a little piano tinkle here, a little haunted violin there, and occasionally some weird lo-fi sound effects. Especially striking is an intimate, deflated cover of The Mamas & the Papas' "Got a Feeling," marked by Thomson's harmonies and a multitude of chiming percussive sounds, including glockenspiel and xylophone. "Reminder" feels like lo-fi math rock with its loping rhythms and busy, angular guitar courtesy of Schickele's brother Matthew (another Beekeeper emeritus). "Bad Day at Black Rock" (also titled "Regular Girl") ruminates on a failed relationship with the kind of spare, searching drama of a Low song.

Prior to New Problems, Schickele released a pair of EPs as k., Not Here and Your Name and Mine, which feature most of the material on New Problems. Her sophomore album Goldfish hit stores in October of 2002 and continued in the vein of her debut. Peculiar instrumental work threads in and out beneath Schickele's soothing voice, bringing an unsettling element to her sound while never subtracting from the spare purity of her songwriting.