The Stars Below
For a long time, Anita Kuhn called herself a “closet musician.” She lived in Colorado, where her fans knew her for her visual works—things like paintings, carved stones, jewelry, fashions, makeup and photo shoots with models. Her style is based on a mix-and-match of fantasy realms—horror, goddess, graffiti, steampunk and goth, to name a few. We’re talking looks ranging from full-body zombie makeup to flowing robes and angel wings. Her work is somber and elegant, and she’s serious about craftsmanship.
Less known to her fans, until a few years ago anyway, was the fact that she also writes music she calls “soundscapes,” based on similar blends of styles. Think classical-meets-ambient-electronica.
“It’s … ethereal and mood-oriented, not a lot of lyrics, not a lot of rhythm to it,” Kuhn said, sporting the kind of striking, black eyeliner you could wear straight from the office to a punk club.
Among Kuhn’s inspirations is a band based in Amsterdam called the Legendary Pink Dots, with an ambient, electronic jazz/goth sound, 40+ albums, and a decades-old cult following, including a devoted Facebook fan group.
Through that fan group, she connected with musicians from around the globe who were contributing tracks to an album called Proverbial 11. It’s a benefit album, released digitally in 2013 under a pay-what-you-like agreement, to benefit the family of David Alsemgeest, a Canadian whose two children had a rare, fatal degenerative disease.
“Just through being involved with the fan network, eventually they found out I’m a closet musician,” said Kuhn. She contributed tracks to Proverbial 11 and two follow-up volumes, released in 2014 and 2016.
Along the way, through the same network of musicians and fans, she ran into Reno’s Rob Pelikan, a fellow “closet musician.” His sound is made of slow, mellow percussion and vocals that layer a warm, folk-like tone with a meditative drone-like sound—something you might hear played by a serene-looking guy at a yoga retreat.
She sent him a voice recording of a poem she’d written. He sent her a song. One thing led to another.
“She sent a little 30-second a capella song gift to me,” Pelikan said. He expanded it into a full song.
“And that was basically the start for our relationship, like, the inception of love, if you will,” he said.
Kuhn moved to Reno in December 2015, and the two have each been working on their own music as Lady Aladrah and Robsongs, and together as a duo, the Stars Below. Their latest piece together is the lead track on Proverbial 11 .v4, to be released in February. This one is a benefit for Heather King, another Canadian, who is battling lyme disease.
“The songs are coming from Europe, Brazil, Canada,” said Kuhn.
“I play guitar and dulcimer,” she said. “He plays the guitar and bass, and we’ve kind of been using keyboards.”
The track symbolizes the culmination, so far, of Kuhn and Pelikan’s efforts as a couple and a musical duo, and their contributions to their online community of fellow musicians, closet and otherwise. (The Legendary Pink Dots themselves appeared on Proverbial 11, v. 2.)
Pelikan said popularity never was much of a motivator for him as he’s made songs in his living room studio over the years.
“Love is the creative ’why’ of what’s going on,” he said “It’s the whole reason we came together. It’s like a binding force. It’s like a glue.”