Ida / Low, Cafe du Nord, San Francisco, 9/29/97
So I'm in a bit of a bind - every other time I have sat down to write a review after a show, I have listened to Low to decompress, but there really is only so much Low one can take in one sitting or else, well, something bad would happen. Maybe your heart would stop its clockwork routine, or maybe you'd forget to blink and your eyes would get stuck open, or perhaps you might embarrass yourself and drool in public. They really are like sonic morphine, instilling this grand sense of intoxicating calmness. There will never be a techno remix of a Low song - it's really hard to dance to something that tops out at maybe 30 beats per minute. I really have to believe that Low are the only band out there that can't be offended if a number of people in the audience fall asleep during their set. One or two people tonight actually even curled up on the floor and let themselves be taken over by the magical peace that Low so carefully weave. I don't know how they do it - it seems that they have so little to work with, so few notes, so few beats, but yet they create this marvelous sound which stills the whole room, soaking up all of the air. After they caught us all in the net of their now-expanded 15-minute Lullaby, everyone in the audience really did take a huge breath to pull themselves back to the real world. If they make that song any longer, they just might put someone in the hospital.
So to answer the question, I'm actually listening to the Ida album I picked up after their opening set. I guess it was fate that they play with Low someday - twice as many vowels, half as many consonants - rather complementary, if you ask me. I think that probably no one would have had quite the same reaction to Ida that I did, so bear with me. I found Ida to be quite evocative of a time gone past, of being up late, thoroughly amped on all things good and caffinated, cranking away on some horrendous monstrosity of a physics problem which clearly Einstein himself would have subcontracted. All the while, though most other lonely creatures had long since shut their trembling eyes, my radio kept me company, quietly piping in the sounds of 103.3, WPRB, Princeton's student-run radio station. It was here that I was introduced to the wonders of independent music - sounds which can be dewdrop sweet and simple or as sour as month-old coffee. Just because you're not U2 or R.E.M. doesn't mean that you can't come up with some pretty neat ideas for a tune - it just means that you don't have quite the resources (a couple of Ida's songs are recorded on a 4-track recorder and one was even recorded on a walkman) and you're not going to sign an $80 mm contract anytime soon. Of course it also means that there's great potential for the creation of absolute drivel, and I'm not going to lie to you - there's a lot out there. It just makes finding the real gems all that much more pleasurable.
So that's what Ida made me think of. And you know what? It was nice to get all nostalgic.
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