1962: Clipper Cowbridge

1963: The Swiss Invasion

1965: Marilyn Kaye

1969: The Fold

1970: Yorgi

1971: Devon Shire

1972: Sandee Saunders

1976: Rockfinger

1978: The Spooky Bunch

1979: Decoupage

1981: Bleep

1984: Tiger Love

1985: Laryssa Foxxx

1986: Smasher of Things

1987: Suthrn Cuzn

1989: ~pianogirl~

1990: Razorflesh

1995: Breaker Bear

1996: Action Plus

1998: J Lounge

2001: Eesk

2004: Lazarus Project

Eesk: Music from Nowhere (2001)

Clubbo recording artist EeskERRATIC. ECCENTRIC. RUDE. Electronic-acoustic pop pioneer Eesk has taken these qualities to new extremes during her alternately brilliant and disastrous multi-decade career as a composer, producer, and vocalist.

As a member of Copenhagen-based duo Øje in the mid-80s, Eesk was once dubbed “World’s Snarkiest Diva” by Melody Maker magazine. Time has apparently done little to smooth her rough edges: Eesk’s 2001 solo record on Clubbo, Ghost Taxi, became the locus of a bitter battle with the label when the artist claimed Clubbo had “ruined” her music through faulty mastering (which she herself had supervised).

Ghost Taxi combines dense layers of organic and electronic timbres with Eesk’s eerie, film-inspired vocals. Like much of her work, it fluctuates between breathtaking and forgettable. Only when one considers Eesk’s roots on the remote Faroe Islands, near Iceland, does this problematic artist begin to make sense.




Eesk lyrics and credits

BUY: Get the post-Clubbo “director’s cut” of Ghost Taxi on iTunes.


Elskar Øndriksdóttir literally hails from the end of the earth: the Faroe Islands, a small cluster of grassy rocks midway between the Shetland Islands and Iceland.

Clubbo recording artist Eesk.

Eesk at the Roskilde Festival in 1995.

It’s a land steeped in legend. In the Faroes, witches turn pirate ships into enormous boulders, and a floating island is fixed in place when a woman ties iron keys to a sow’s tail and makes it swim ashore.

Young Elskar — Eesk for short — grew up surrounded by sheep, wind, and solitude. Her own family history echoes another Faroese legend, in which a seal woman is captured by a local farmer. The farmer steals her seal skin and insists she marry him. After several years, she finds the skin he’s hidden and returns to the sea, abandoning their children.

Like the Seal Wife, Eesk’s mother came from another world — one to which she eventually returned. A marine biology graduate student at the University of California at San Diego, Leda Jensen came to the Faroes to do Ph.D. research during the summer of 1964. She put her career on hold after a whirlwind romance with Bárdur Øndriks, a local musician and son of a well-to-do sheep farmer on the northern island of Kalsoy.

Leda and Bárdur married, and their daughter Elskar was born the following year. At first the couple planned to relocate to the US together, but eventually Leda realized her husband would never leave his sheep. So she made the difficult decision to return to California, leaving her daughter behind.

Eesk was a strange, introverted child. As a hobby, she took apart broken transistor radios and assembled the components into miniature castles. Her father, a taciturn but not unkind man, was perhaps not the ideal role model for basic social skills — though he did teach his daughter to play piano and several other instruments. Eesk’s everyday life of chores and lessons was punctuated by annual wintertime visits to the exotic land of Southern California to stay with her mother, now an associate professor at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The Faroe island of Kalsoy.

In 1982, at age 17, Eesk left the Faroes for the University of Copenhagen. She initially intended to study electrical engineering and music, but soon switched her academic focus to film studies. An attractive blonde with a flamboyant fashion sense, she starred in several student productions, including Brød og smør (“Bread and Butter”), an early film by Klemens Østergaard, later a member of the Dogme 95 circle. Eesk became close to another film student as well: Lars Tybjerg, a handsome young Dane who also played guitar and keyboards. The two became musical partners, first creating scores together for their friends’ films, then forming their own new-wave pop duo, named Øje, or “Eye,” in tribute to their visual-arts roots.

The partnership was a stormy one. Both Lars and Eesk were strong-willed, temperamental, and unaccustomed to sharing. Øje was as well-known for their onstage bickering as for their effervescent pop concoctions — songs catchy enough to propel them to the Danish Melodi Grand Prix, whose winner advances to the World Cup of pop: the Eurovision Song Contest. Øje’s sleek, artsy styling won the pair extra points, but they were disqualified when Lars made a rude gesture toward Eesk onstage, to which Eesk responded with a Faroese profanity. (The duo Hot Eyes represented Denmark at Eurovision ’85 instead, performing their smash hit, “Sku’ du spøerg fra no’en?” They placed eleventh.)

Øje (Lars Tybjerg and ElskarØndriksdóttir) in 1986.

Øje recorded two LPs on Elinem Records International: 1986’s Hun er så sod (“She’s So Cute”) and 1987’s Gift (which can be translated as either “Poison” or “Married”). The pair became romantically involved as well, and had a daughter, Annemette.

But like so many ’80s duos, Øje split up in a nasty and public manner toward the end of the decade. Lars became increasingly sensitive to perceived slights of his own talents and contributions, and ever more jealous of the disproportionate press attention Eesk seemed to receive.

For her part, Eesk began to dread songwriting sessions with Lars, whose musical ideas she’d come to consider trite and predictable. By 1989, the former partners had settled as far away from one another as physically possible: Eesk in London, and Lars in Bali (where, rumor has it, he attempted an abortive collaboration with Siri Batawi, the naïve genius behind Clubbo’s own Tiger Love).

Eesk continued with her own musical career, contributing vocals, keyboards, and production to other artists’ recordings throughout the ’90s — including Scottish drum-and-bass producer Toko, Egyptian vocalist Habib Hassoum, and Monterrey, Mexico-based electronica group Escupir. She resumed her film scoring work as well, working with German composer Werther Gund on scores for the avant-garde tearjerker The End of Tomorrows (1992), historical disaster flick Shaken (1995), and supernatural thriller The Eighth Assassin (1998).

Clubbo Records recording artist Eesk

Eesk in 2001

Between projects, Eesk alternated between bouts of high visibility in the international music and film worlds and extended stretches of hibernation at the family farm on Kalsoy. Her reputation for rudeness made her a perennial favorite among the music press, who gleefully reported each fresh anecdote. In response, she went out of her way to snub music journalists.

On a flight from New York to London, Eesk was once seated by chance next to famed music critic Byron Jenkowitz. She refused to speak a word to him during the entire six-hour flight, despite having met him several times before — and according to one witness, when Jenkowitz dozed off in his seat, she dropped a peanut in his cocktail.

In 2000, Eesk decided to reenter the pop arena with her own music. She’d been impressed with the eclecticism of Clubbo Records while producing electronica artists B Sub and DJ Skinjob for the label, and contacted Clubbo head Bas Carlton about a solo record deal.

Eesk's Ghost Taxi album (original Clubbo release)

Original Clubbo artwork for Ghost Taxi.

The initial meeting was not auspicious, says the now-retired Carlton via phone from his Cayman Islands villa. “I’d flown to London to meet with Eesk about a possible deal,” he recalls. “Our meeting was scheduled for the following day. But I was staying quite near her flat, and I ran into her on the street that afternoon. She’d just given some unfortunate street musician £5 to stop playing. When I saw her, naturally I said, ‘Aren’t you Eesk?’ And she gave me this look, said, ‘Not today, thank you!’ and kept walking.”

Perhaps Carlton should have taken this encounter as an omen. Production began almost immediately on Eesk’s solo album, the multi-layered, multi-ethnic Ghost Taxi. All seemed to go smoothly, until Eesk heard a copy of the final, mastered disc.

“She went through the roof,” Carlton remembers. “It was bizarre, because she’d heard and approved every step up until then. But suddenly she insisted it all sounded terrible, and accused us of ruining her music — the music she herself had produced!”

Eesk was unable to prevent Clubbo from releasing her record. But she did refuse to tour or do any press supporting the release. After a brief promotional push, Clubbo decided to cut its losses. Eesk was allowed to end her contract and buy back the master recordings, though at a steep price. She later reissued Ghost Taxi, with revised mastering and a different song order, on her own Nocturnal Love Feast label. Ironically, the initial Clubbo release (now out of print) is widely considered the superior version of the LP.

Eesk's Ghost Taxi album

Artwork for the re-released version of Ghost Taxi.

Ghost Taxi combines many of Eesk’s influences from throughout her career, from ’80s pop to eerie, cinematic chromaticism. The record merges electronics with such organic instruments as flygil-horn and the traditional Faroese Harpanger fiddle (a distant relation of Norway’s Hardanger fiddle played with a whalebone bow). There are clear references to international film music, from Hong Kong to Bollywood. But above all, Ghost Taxi echoes the incessant waves and wind of the lonely — but not quite forgotten — Faroe Islands.

Eesk continues to produce other artists in a surprising range of genres. Recent projects have included a hit single by Portuguese death-metal band Serpente and a hiphop LP by former Hong Kong film star Joey Chu.

Her next project? Eesk is producing a solo effort by her daughter Annemette, who lives in California with grandmother Leda. Except for annual summertime visits to the exotic island of Kalsoy, Annemette has barely seen her mother for the past 19 years. This record, one assumes, will give them both a chance to become better acquainted.