by Jason Fuller
Solex is a) a cheap but well-thought-of French scooter; b) Elisabeth Esselink's musical moniker; c) the name of Ms. Esselink's feline companion; d) all of the above and more. (See answer below).
Esselink is Solex, a one-woman show from Holland. While sitting around in her used record shop, she began to fool around with an old sampler, a cheap keyboard and a seemingly endless stream of unsold and unwanted records. Her hobby of musical tinkering was soon shaped into a demo which she sent unsolicited to U.S. indie stalwart Matador. The label signed her, instantly putting her on a short list of unsolicited signings that includes only indie golden girl, Liz Phair.
Esselink's first record, Solex vs. The Hitmeister, was a blissed-out blend of at-odds sounds and breathy streams of consciousness. More self-referential than a Wu-Tang track, Solex is yet another larger-than-life persona for the emerging international avant-collage pop crowd. Call it Beck-meets-Bjork somewhere near Portishead. Labels are useless when someone like Solex won't play by the rules.
Her sophomore effort, Pick Up, does just that — with a new twist. Possibly out of fear that all the originators of all those previously unloved sounds would come back to haunt her, the library of samples on Pick Up were picked up from various live sources. Touring with the live incarnation of Solex may have had something to do with it, but the album has the ultimate juxtaposition — organic elements coming alive in a very mechanical way. Plucked Violins, bongos, jazzed-up piano, swirling horns and xylophone are happily blurred into magic mush.
Lyrically, Solex is as just inventively odd. The official line is that the lyrics are all imaginary conversations Esselink had while taking a powder — "bathroom stories," as the album was once called. "Dork at 12 o'clock" and "Snappy and Cocky" are among the tales of strangers on the street and even strangers at home. Tourists, Chinese take-away, bad haircuts and underwear all find their way into Esselink's nursery rhyme delivery.
Pick Up is heavy orchestral cartoon music for carports. William Burroughs as Bugs Bunny. It's like Fantasia for '60s delinquents, a strong dose of freakout fun.