There has been only one all-ski musical ensemble: the Ski-A-Delics.
Formed in Boston in 1988, Ski-A-Delics were Laura Burns, Patrick Donnelly, Ed Osborn, Jonathan Sahula and Greg Wildes. Each played a single ski strung with a piano wire, each amplified with a single Fender Rhodes pick-up.
Despite the economy of the instruments, the skis were capable of a wide tonal and dynamic range. The strings were bowed, scraped and plucked to create pops, cracks, chimes, creaks and tones that combine to produce music which is an unexpected sum of its parts.
Recorded during an era of recession, Reagan, post-modernism and post-punk, ‘Snow Bunny Bobby Katz and The Aspen-Aspirin’ is a riotous product of a time of flux. Poised between punk and experimental music, the Ski-A-Delics sound is hard to pin down. Passages of infectious rhythm are followed by sparse abstraction, never totally succumbing to the nihilistic impulses of punk or the dry academia of experimental music.
The idea of an all-ski band came about partially by chance. Wildes acquired his first musical ski from notorious SubGenius Dr. Ahmed Fishmonger (artist Seth K Deitch). After a serendipitous sequence of events he accrued a batch of old skis which were converted into instruments. Friends were recruited and a band was formed.
Ski-A-Delics members absorbed musical influences from far afield. Band leader Greg Wildes had his musical horizons broadened at Wesleyan University where he was exposed to musicians from around the globe. Elements of African drumming, Indian Solkattu and Javanese Gamelan such as polyrhythm, call and response, subdivisions and hocketing later became key components of the group’s music.
Wildes points to the influence of musical pioneer Alvin Lucier. In the early 80’s both Wildes and Osborn were taught by Lucier at Wesleyan University. During this period Lucier took his students to the Neuberger Museum, NY to see a version of “Music on a Long Thin Wire” - his installation comprising of 80 feet of taut amplified wire, which was attached to an oscillator and left to resonate without interference from human hands.
Ski-A-Delics responded to the installation by contriving a situation where human interaction with the string was essential. Choosing to occupy different territory to Lucier, Ski-A-Delics wanted to connect with each other and the audience – to create music, mischief and controlled chaos.
‘Snow Bunny Bobby Katz and The Aspen-Aspirin’ hints at riotous ski lodge parties, headaches, highbrow butting heads with lowbrow; it's a short, sweet and surprising recording which still sounds relevant 25 years on.
Joshua WF Thomson - 2013