Washington Post
Friday, October 26, 2001; Page WE08

Idaho Music

Doleful melodies, sighing vocals and piano chords that decay about as quickly as Styrofoam in a sanitary landfill -- these are the "sadcore" trademarks that Idaho downplays on the first two songs on "Levitate," its latest album. Yet "Wondering the Fields" and "20 Years" turn out to be misleading. A few of the subsequent tunes include lively passages, but more often the music resembles that of such fellow Californian melancholists as American Music Club and Red House Painters.

Idaho was a band when it began recording eight years ago. A few crises later, the group name has become an alias for Jeff Martin, who composed and produced all of "Levitate's" songs and played every instrument save drums. Several tracks do indeed sound like a one-man show: The instrumental "Levitate Pt. 2," for example, is little more than musical wisps drifting atop elementary electronics. Some songs with lyrics, including "Santa Claus Is Weird," are almost as vaporous. Martin can create musical drama from the collision of the emphatic and the vague, but too often he lets the latter simply have its pallid way.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Sunday at the Black Cat with Hot Pursuit and True Love Always. To hear a free Sound Bite from Idaho, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8104. (Prince William residents, call 703/690-4110.)

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