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Friday, June 19, 2009

IDA Sessions - s/t

Name: Ida Sessions
Album: S/T
Year: 1998
Style: Electro Noise
Similar Bands: Sonic Youth, Early Flaming Lips, Braniac, Enon
"One-Word" Review: musical equivilant-to-ghostchild-horror-movies
Based Out Of: Portland, OR
Label: Red Alert Works
Ida Sessions - Cover & Record
Ida Sessions - Back & Record

Ida Sessions (1998)
  1. Depth Charger 6:20
  2. Dog Race 4:48
  3. Give Us The Crystals 4:26/
  4. Sick Man Of Asia 11:02
  5. Time To Die 4:04
Album Rating (1-10): 5.5

Members & Other Bands:
Summer Mastous - Piano, Organ & Synth (the Fisticuffs Bluff, Octant, Miranda July, Love as Laughter)
Donovan Skirvin - Guitars, Vox, Cover Art & Design (Skurvy Dog Design) (Miranda July)
Tobyn McCormick- Drums & Casio (Kill Me Tomorrow)
Don Godwin - Producer, Recording, Mastering (Red Alert Works record label)

Unknown-ness: I had never heard of these guys. I saw the record in a thrift store, and got it…because…well, I don’t really know exactly why. The design looks cheap and amateurish in a bad way, and there are only 5 songs, all of them over 4 minutes, with one clocking in over 11 minutes: usually not my cup of tea. Plus, all the songs were recorded in 1997, so the genre could be anything from experimental to hard core to new age. I do like the song name “Give Us the Crystals” though. I did not realize until I did a little research that the name Ida Sessions was taken from the movie Chinatown, so not all bad. And in other movie tie-ins, two of the three guys worked with Miranda July, director of "Me You and Everyone We Know" on her album before this release. But it is not a long album, so it can’t be that much of a waste of time if it turns out bad.

Album Review: Reading the reviews, I’ve seen that this is categorized as a theatrical, crackling dark rock and art-punk. Lets see if I can review this without pushing into these specific categories.

“Depth Charger” fades in with some off key evil electronic work, a distant echoing drum beat and electro fuzz. The vocals are begging and shrill at times, like an abducted victim crying for her release. My first thought is Sonic Youth, with the slightly melodic structure buried under fuzz and echoing feed back. The song’s pace is somewhat driving with sudden breaks of form and what sounds like vocals gurgling up from the bottom of a murky lake. The driving fuzz comes back with the whining vocals. The Buzzing and driving music that picks up after it sounds like the song ended remind me a lot of Braniac. Then the tempo changes with help and guidance from a dark, eerie piano base into a wobbling bowling pin: thick and dense and ready to topple. This reminds me a little of when I saw Deerhunter live…except that they sucked and this is a better, more dynamic and way more interesting.
“Dog Race” starts with deep echoing bass sounding like it is played with a bow. A general omnipresent hum is in the background. A pleasant piano is played, giving direction and way to the fast vocals. The fuzz and noise is poured on top of the general piano melodies, which are given the chance to emerge every once in a while. The vocals remind me a lot of Tim Taylor from Braniac and John Schmersal from Enon. There are many little vocal sections just thrown together and overlaid across the piano and fuzz background, which itself, stays pretty consistent.
For the first few seconds, “Give Us The Crystals” displays a happy piano played at a distance, and in echo, but is masked with dark emotions and effects from the self-made music environment. The vocals are an emo-shouting, partly in monotone pitch, but not over-bearing, and occur at a distance too. The music drifts in and out of chaos, with the presence of bass added. The song collapses around 3:15 to a slow-down spiral, with a children’s piano effect brought to the front. Eventually the spiral burns out with a few final crashing instruments, and the ghostly remains of the piano and keyboard.

“Sick Man Of Asia” needs preparation to endure the long 11+ minute track. But as it begins, feedback hum fades up, and tinny metallic guitar echos away. The spooky repetitive keyboard/piano slams home the uncertainty of where you are. Vocals cry and spackle the song, as weeping reminders of spirits once here. It really does evoke a mystical, haunting spirit with the production. The vocals are so out of key, they are almost painful when they sing “It’s all over.” Eventually, you get used to the tone, and it weirdly melds into one complete soundtrack. Again, it sounds like the Enon/Braniac duo, or any new electro vocoder based fuzz bands out there today, in its urgency and vocal style. The second section of vocals is performed at a fun head nodding pace, and takes all the attention away from the swirling background and neurotic piano playing. Around 6 minutes, the building fuzz makes it seem like the track is going to end. But instead, a quieter section begins, with vocals like the stereotypical horror movie’s killer child spirit’s playground chanting. The song changes gears slightly as the piano becomes a crystal like repetitively cycle, and together with the vocals, the song gains something that might resemble hope. And noisy guitar feedback ends the song.
“Time To Die” begins with a gospel chorus chanting angelically. But 22 seconds later, the crashing guitars disturb the peace, and the two fight for the spotlight. A dark, evil sounding piano repeats over and over again, bringing increased stress and edginess to the voices which have triumphed over the guitar for the time being. But the keyboard’s intensity slowly builds, and it feels like the song may come crashing down at any second. Sure enough the metal, electric guitar returns and somewhat of a balance is reached. The guitar, over exerted, shuts down again for a shorter interval and hard core begins to win out over the gospel choir. But it is the chorus that has the last “la la la” on the album.

Stand Out Track: Dog Race


1 comment:

  1. I found this record in a small record store in London in about 2003. I, like you , also didn't know what drew me to buy it, but I did. I have to say that I really enjoyed it. So much so, in fact, that when my copy got cracked whilst moving to uni I spent about 3 years trying to track down another copy.