The Lost Songs of Alan Lewandowski
On one hand, Alan Lewandowski, a.k.a. Anita Fix, is just an unassuming, lanky guy with neo-primitivist guitar stylings in the vein of indie folk heroes Jad Fair, Calvin Johnson and Bill Callahan. Occasionally, he pokes out keyboard notes, scrapes on metal percussion, or uses a found noise, like a telephone ringing in the kitchen. Sure, that makes for lo-fi authenticity in spades, but he still might seem an odd choice to play a kick-off concert for a college administrators' conference on the transgendered student population -- precisely what he's doing Fri., Oct. 19, at Chatham University.
Look closer, and there's a depth to Lewandowski's plaintive man-child persona, part of a cultural outsider tradition stretching from blues singers to Bob Dylan and on to '70s androgynous icons T. Rex and David Bowie.
There's also his focus on themes of oppression and redemption. On "O, Poland!" he identifies with the underdog status of his ancestral homeland, concluding, "may we all live as mystics / with no regard how to squash / the human body into countless spirits to carry out the President's wash." Meanwhile, on "Ms. Helen of Sparta," he marvels at those who list "crazy love as a distraction, and husband and wife a position to be filled." Take that, Focus on the Family.
He's also able to place himself in the souls of characters along the gender continuum -- especially evident in the songs "Her Ten Senses" and "Hey Baby, Baby Hey!" In that sense, Lewandowski bears resemblance to the Siberian shaman or the Native American medicine man, both of whom often had transgendered qualities that were both respected and feared by their communities, alongside their abilities to go into trances and invoke supernatural visions.
Listening to this collection spanning a decade of compositions (originally recorded in 2004, but recently unearthed) is like traveling along the spectral plane with just such a wandering spirit -- albeit a modern one, with a slightly detuned six-string. And when the gentle clanging finally fades at the end of "Pestilence," it's similar to awakening from a feverish dream. I'm not saying Anita Fix will help you attain an out-of-body experience ... but you might learn something new about yourself.
Anita Fix with Kill the Unicorn, Flotilla Way, and Hailey Wojcik. 8 p.m. Fri., Oct. 19. REA Coffeehouse, Chatham University campus, Shadyside. $5.