Idaho - On Fire


August 7th, 2024
San Francisco, CA
Bottom of the Hill
August 10th, 2024
Los Angeles, CA
The Troubadour

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Over the course of its four decade history, IDAHO has sustained a cult following devoted to the mysterious allure of the California band’s singular sound. To all those who have delighted in the IDAHO canon, there is the shared if not isolated notion of having found a rare diamond in the rough. As the band’s creative force Jeff Martin puts it perhaps too simply, “IDAHO will help you get through a challenging time in your life or bore and confuse the shit out of you.” 

Emerging in the early 90s and often linked to the seminal downcast bands of the post-grunge-boom 'slowcore' “movement,” IDAHO is uniquely distinguished by the ragged elegance of Martin’s songcraft, marked by his cavernous 4-string electric guitar feeding back in melancholic ripples of alien tones and odd tunings. Less dirge than desert, alternatingly lush and laconic, gravelly and bucolic, Martin’s gentle, strained vocals lead the airy, earthen synergy of IDAHO’s meticulous layers. 

Lapse is the first new album from IDAHO since the cult indie rock band's 2011 release, You Were A Dick. Its ten new songs are engraved with Idaho’s long-standing signature sound: rich melancholia lavished by Martin, with bittersweet delivery on his heartfelt, cinematic music. Set against the oasis of 29 Palms, California, near Joshua Tree National Park, where it was recorded, Lapse is an album about relationships, and relationships based on music – a band – for lack of better word – still inspired by the notion of its very existence – “more of a feeling than a band” – and that its music connects deeply with a small but highly tapped-in and unflinchingly faithful audience. 

The ten songs of Lapse, Martin’s first new album in more than 13 years, are priceless snapshots of IDAHO’s evolutionary sound captured in newfound flux – otherworldly signals from the desert, conjured from the magic of the ether; and collaboration, with newcome guitarist Robby Fronzo joining the fray, and the return of 90s drummer Jeff Zimmitti back in the fold. 

More collaborative than anything Martin has recorded in the last 20 years – he admits that there’s“nothing like the synergy that happens when I let someone else in” – Lapse is charged with the undying love of making music, and celebrates the unity of being here together. “What really brought Lapse out after all this time is the idea that as much as I may love to be alone, where I truly feel that I am myself, to be in relation to another is where one truly evolves.”

The album, true to its title, arrives at a renaissance moment for IDAHO – in step with a new career-spanning documentary Traces Of Glory, and an upcoming box set of the impossibly sought-after first three albums spanning 1992-1996: Year After Year, This Way Out, and Three Sheets To The Wind (via Arts & Crafts in late 2024). Rolling up in a blaze of ragged glory, songs fueled by the bonds of music itself, Lapse is a blessing of an album that will no doubt open new eyes to the horizons of IDAHO's inimitable soundscape.

Martin calls Lapse "a harkening back to the beginnings of IDAHO" – not as a ‘return to form’; but a deep visitation with the muse that ignited more than three decades of peerless output. From its 90s albums on Caroline/Capitol Records, through its stellar albeit sporadic 00’s independent releases, to the new era of IDAHO on the Arts & Crafts banner –  Lapse is an album steeped in nostalgia, without ever succumbing to it: a work of pure sonic, emotional accrual: a lightning strike destined to enrich the legacy of an already enduring, yet still undersung band.

The close communion with his audience is central to Martin’s creative energy, this much is clear from the first notes of “Kamikaze,” the opening salvo of Lapse. Marking the end of the longest drought in Martin’s still-prolific career, and the start of IDAHO’s tenth album, over a bulbous bass-led melody, chiming guitars, and an ebullient beat (by slowcore standards), the hushed frontman sings directly to each and everyone attuned to his frequency: “Everything was flowing / as it seems to do.” They are words that light up the fact that there is a presence in the space, a frequency that links us humans to each other and to the electrical force of the planet(s, cosmos, etc.); as we sink down, down into the melancholic undertones of sadness and joy that are in perfect admixture in IDAHO’s extraordinary music. “How can it be this long / since I’ve seen all of you” – and so it goes on… The love affair is renewed. 

“Break some records break a sweat / Before you’re fuckin dead,” Martin sings with soft, righteous incision on the ensuing “On Fire,” a wistful anthem in whisper quiet verse. The first single excerpted, “On Fire” sounds out the band’s resurgence, beneath an aqueous mix of feedback and ambience. Martin says that “On Fire” “sounds like IDAHO circa ‘96 when we were a full band.” To wit, Lapse marks the first time in over twenty years – since 2000’s landmark Hearts Of Palm album, and back to IDAHO’s origins as a duo with his late high school friend John Berry – that Martin has recorded in such close collaboration with another musician and contributing songwriter. A key step in the formation of the album traces back to late 2020 when Fronzo, a fan of IDAHO’s, reached out via Instagram with an offer to help finish demos Martin was posting. The ideas Fronzo brought to the writing and recording of Lapse – with basic tracks going down January to October 2022 at Martin’s mom’s pad in 29 Palms, and overdubs and vocals laid at Martin’s house in Laurel Canyon – added a vital counterpoint to the shimmering lilt of the tunes. 

“Lapse is more of a collaboration compared to the records I’ve been writing and recording on my own since 2000,” Martin recounts. “We got back to the old model with another guitarist: a veritable duo, which is the way IDAHO started with John Berry on Year After Year, and then developed with Dan Seta over the next five albums.”

On “West Side,” Martin posits what may be taken as an origin story about the early time and place of the band, a bouncy sort of West LA Fadeaway for the sunset at the turn of the millennium. “25 years and nothing’s changed,” Martin intones over a patent IDAHO pattern of melodic verses with dissonant choruses, a poignant and defining inversion about the band. Acute bitterness subtly pierces through, with Martin’s acerbic wit opposed by the jasmine backing vocals of Tanja Hentjes and Meg Webb – a soft accumulation of harmonic strain wavering in the dynamic voicings. 

The spacious and sensual “Heaven On Earth” reimagines a carefree and inclusive time of life coming up in the 80’s and 90’s a stone’s throw from Hollywood. Over fragmented minor chord anthemry, Martin recollects young nights partying with friends and celebrities alike under the carefree supervision of a friend’s screenwriter parents. 

The softly warbling “Heat Seek” ponders the constant interplay of consonance and dissonance in IDAHO’s music, a persistent harmony of tension that both embodies and belies the notion of what ‘slowcore’ may be – a category that Martin feels IDAHO at most has only one foot in – bearing more so the amorphous vamp feel and wiry melodies of, say, Neil Young’s “Vampire Blues,” wallowing in its pleasant sort of acridity.

On the plaintive “Somehow,” the blossoming of Martin and Fronzo’s collaboration is heard in its full flourish. While setting up to record out in the desert in 2022 during the prolonged height of the pandemic, Fronzo’s chord progression – ringing out sweet and sour in perfect IDAHO fashion – inspired Martin’s lyrics about departed friend Peter Freeman, a gifted bassist and soundscape artist who nearly became an IDAHO member in 2016: a perfect encapsulation of the album’s long and sudden gestation.

Snakes,” a song (mind you) about a friendship gone sour (‘You’ve always had a superior air about you / As your beauty fades you lash out’), languishes in a solemn key that consumes its own melodic undertones. Completing a trio of downcast tunes in the heart of the record, “‘Snakes’ inhabits a sonic space that John [Berry] and I loved to vibrate in,” Martin recalls of his late cofounder, who left the band soon after its debut album Year After Year (1992) and died in 2016. “To most folks it could be a real downer, but to John and me it would be more of a joy-filled uplifting exercise in catharsis.”

The high desert backdrop of Lapse is nowhere better captured than on the gloriously melodious “Across The Sky.” Inspired by “the colours, textures, and endless sky sunsets,” the large living room and limitless volume of Martin’s mom’s home “let the sound waves develop the way they should.”. As fate would have it, IDAHO’s long-time mixing engineer Bill Sanke had to depart the sessions, leaving Martin with the unfamiliar task of mixing on his own, something he had not done since 2002’s We Were Young And Needed The Money. The vast timbral field and indescribably vivid palette of this song stand as a testament to the balance (and endurance) of perfectionism/abandon forever at play in IDAHO’s music.

It would not be a triumphant IDAHO record if it did not end on a note of denouement. On “Throw The Game,” emotion wins out, and bitterness, in an array of beautiful sadness, prevails. Over rumbling lows and glassy highs, in the wake of overflowing melody, a question of doubt lingers. “I am looking for a way out of this / I’m always looking for a way / to throw the game.” One can read into what it might say about the reason for Lapse, nodding to the time that has passed and the heart that it takes. Whatever the tone, the question is one that is shared by the many listeners that continue to find unity in the sometimes lonely shades of this music. 

“The songs may not be heard by many,” Martin considers, “so it’s more the solopsistic interplay with the muse that keeps it going. The ultimate joy is not in the ‘attaining’ it is purely in the creating itself. 

Lapse ends on the titular “29 Palms,” an instrumental untangling of the atmospheric motifs threaded through the record. In classic IDAHO fashion, Martin’s detuned 4-string guitar bellows feedback into a canyon, empty other than its echoes of crickets and coyotes. In contempt of inertia, Lapse conjures, renews, and compels the rebellious excellence of IDAHO’s earnest, ornate, vanguard rock n’ roll – a reminder of the punk ethic at the core of making tirelessly slow, passionately sad music – a force that in IDAHO, even after all these miles, is still very much on fire.






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