DECEMBER 3, 1993

* * * Idaho, YEAR AFTER YEAR (Caroline).

Idaho’s Jeff Martin and John Berry specialize in dispensing the perfect antidote for the happiness that ails you. Martin provides the murky minor-key guitar chords and a winding undercurrent of unsettling feedback. Berry lends his unsteady tenor to the grim emotional fray, taps along on bass, and splits the drum chores with his partner in gloom. The result sounds like Dinosaur Jr. on codeine — a relentless combination of lethargic grooves and rich, melancholy melodies.

Like J Mascis, Berry expresses himself abstractly, slurring his words just enough to obscure the object of his longing. On the intensely introspective “Gone,” phrases like “I’ll talk you down” and “Couldn’t find your way” hint at the tragedy suggested by Berry’s morose intonation, and the abrasive distortion underpins Martin’s acoustic strumming. Pure ambient anguish, it’s the kind of soothing downer that’s therapeutic.

— Matt Ashare