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Ida moves to the woods, collaborates with Levon Helm on Lovers Prayers

By February 5, 2008No Comments



Ida, a New York City band known for their quiet, even pastoral, take on urban life, has moved to the woods. Now, it seems, the woods have moved into their music. Strange buzzing sounds, incandescent acoustic drones, dissonant tone clusters of unknown origin, the distant communications of birds, and unobstructed views of the night sky suffuse the gently strummed guitars, sparse piano notes, and poignant personal narratives of Daniel Littleton, Elizabeth Mitchell, and Karla Schickele. The band released Lovers Prayers on Polyvinyl on Jan. 29th, 2008. It is Ida’s seventh full length album overall and second for Polyvinyl.

Ida found an acoustically sublime haven in Levon Helm’s home studio, a perfectly aged, completely wooden (even the nails!) structure located in the Catskill Mountains near Woodstock, NY. Ida came to affectionately refer to it as “The Barn”. After recording a song with Ida, Helm personally invited them to play at the Midnight Ramble, a near mythical concert series he hosts at his home. The “Ramble’s” informal atmosphere seems shockingly incongruous with the high caliber of renowned musicians who wander in (often unadvertised and unannounced) and proceed to tear the roof off the place on any given Saturday night. Playing at the Rambles inspired Ida to go all the way into their new “super woods, super organic, slightly mystical” style by embracing a soulful looseness, and connecting with the simple, joyful experience of playing songs for a small crowd in a sympathetic, intimate, rural setting. On one night, Helm himself sat in for Ida’s drummer who was about to give birth to her first child.

Ida began working at The Barn with their new violinist Jean Cook (Mekons) and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Ruth Keating, after completing the Heart Like a River Tour in 2005. The relaxed “clubhouse environment” and the ambiance of the space lent itself to the loose, “audio verite” feel of the sessions. Most songs were tracked “live” with few overdubs and a specific attention to natural room sounds rather than a reliance on digital effects or processing. By abandoning studio “perfectionism” in favor of a more spontaneous and experimental approach, Ida, ironically, wound up with the clearest, most dynamic recordings they have ever made.

During this time Ida worked, both live and in the studio, with another one of their all time heroes, legendary “outsider” folk singer-songwriter Michael Hurley, with whom Ida is currently collaborating on a project. Hurley, also known as “Snock”, played and sang with Ida at a Ramble wearing a “spelunking” light on his hat, and can actually be heard laughing while playing fiddle on the record! After a chance meeting at the local pharmacy, Jane Scarpantoni (R.E.M., Lou Reed, Rufus Wainwright) came by The Barn and played cello. Old friend and collaborator Tara Jane O’Neil (Rodan, Papa M) contributed guitar, drums and the cover art. Innovative NYC guitarist Matt Sutton (Jennifer O’Connor) played pedal steel. Justin Guip, Levon Helm’s engineer, recorded all of the sessions at The Barn. The album was produced and mixed by Warn Defever (His Name Is Alive) and Ida, with some additional recording at the band’s home studio, ON-ME SOUND. Defever, long time Ida co-conspirator and sound alchemist, conjured up some of the transparent splendor of Joe Boyd’s late sixties and early seventies production work, with just enough ambient atmospherics, fairy dust and dirt to pull it all together. The result is Lovers Prayers, Ida’s strongest album to date.

Ida’s interest in sparseness, minimalism, and sound worlds is in abundance on Lovers Prayers, but these concerns are never at odds with their pop instincts. Ida’s music has evolved into something generous and beautiful, a synthesis of folk, rock, blues, and world music that feels singularly their own. They have made a record that is uncompromising, complex, and emotionally resonant, with enough sonic detail and depth to reward repeated listening.

If throughout their career Ida has offered up earnest meditations on love, death, art, and the complexities of representation, they have always approached these lofty cosmic and personal realms via the transfiguring of “ordinary” life, a receptivity to anomalies of experience, and the pursuit of the extraordinary in the everyday. Now, with help from some old and new friends, they have managed to make their most powerful statement: A collection of songs that invoke the proximity of the invisible and the reality of love with an earned grace that comes from experience, persistence and an undiminished enthusiasm for making sounds together.

Ida – Lovers Prayers track list:

1.Lovers Prayers
2.The Weight Of The Straw
3.The Love Below
4.Willow Tree
5.Worried Mind Blues
7.For Shame Of Doing Wrong
8.First Light
10.Surely Gone
11.The Killers 1964
12.See The Stars
13.First Take
14.Blue Clouds

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