Inside voices 

With an aesthetic association like quiet-core, Ida has come to expect sound difficulties as part of the terrain on tour. The semipermeable collective of morose ’n’ melodic New York musicians faced one such dilemma while on the road with Michigan’s Warn Defever and the I Want You To Live One Hundred Years Band. Defever (also a longtime producer-collaborator with the members of Ida) fondly recalls the Rhode Island gig where he “fixed” the situation.

“They were having a lot of problems and they asked me to adjust some things. So I went over there and I just turned off the PA. And they played super-quiet and it was beautiful.”

Beautiful for those in the front row — everyone else strained to hear the unamplified hush of reflective harmonies and gentle acoustic waves of guitar and strings.

Ida’s Dan Littleton also remembers the Rhode Island show.

Defever “has this, um, I don’t know, unique lexicon. ‘Fix’ is easily confused with ‘ruin’ or ‘decimate’ or ‘destroy.’ So if he says he ‘fixed’ it, there’s a good chance that there was some real destruction going on, on some level, or sabotage. He turned off the PA in the middle of the set. And I think, to his mind, everything went real good after that. But I don’t know if he was thinking that it was real good because nobody could actually hear any sound … or whether that was actually good. He’s ‘fixed’ a lot of things for us. … Really, we embrace it wholeheartedly.”

Thus, Defever and Time Stereo label cohort Davin Brainard are putting out Ida’s most recent Shhh… EP, a collection of remixes of the band’s songs that begin with the letters “sh,” such as “Shotgun” and “Shrug.” Though it’s being called an EP, the record includes 10 songs and nearly 60 minutes of music.

And in celebration of the CD’s release, Ida is playing a show at Detroit’s CPOP gallery, the band’s first performance in more than a year and the only one scheduled for a while. Since 2000’s Will You Find Me tour, Littleton and Elizabeth Mitchell (vocals, guitar, etc. and also Littleton’s wife) have had a baby, which of course has kept them pretty busy. Karla Schickele (vocals, bass, piano, etc.) released a solo album under the k. moniker last year and toured for much of 2001.

Shhh… is the third and final installment of the masses of studio work culled from the Will You Find Me sessions, which took place during two years while the band was signed to Capitol Records. Last year’s The Braille Night was the second.

Like a difficult but sweet, sticks-in-your-head-for-days film watched from the comfort of your own couch, most Ida records have a comfortable-uncomfortable, bare-complex, minimal-dense feeling about them. Much like other Ida releases, Shhh… has a tense, beautiful and melancholic vibe, but with a slightly whimsical, Time Stereo twist.

“When Liz and I started making songs together, I was so happy to not be in a band,” Littleton admits. “I’d been in hardcore bands and punk-rock bands and funk bands. I had started doing songs on four-track, just acoustic guitar songs. Not to play for anybody, just wanting to write songs and not have it be all about volume and every decision being contingent on four other egos. It was just so exciting to take out all of these obligatory elements. We didn’t need to have drums. We didn’t need to have bass. And then we thought, we don’t even need electric guitars. Or what if we just used one electric guitar and our friend played stand-up bass and we’d work on harmonies and stuff like that. We were giving each other freedom to share in a kind of introversion. We wanted it to be a kind of private music that two or three of us could do together and make a space where that kind of work could happen. And when Miggy (Michael Littleton, drums) came into that, it made sense, since he was my brother and we’d been playing music forever.

“It’s all been about what the song needs. If a song needs one person playing one instrument, then that’s a decision we’ll make. We’re very song-centric I guess. If it needs a band, if it needs 10 people playing one note, that’s fine.

“Just playing music is so great these days. I’ve been more and more invested in it. Aside from feeling the impact of New York City, having a mass grave a mile and a half from my apartment, that made me feel more committed to doing music. Being a parent also has that effect. I feel more committed to it, more serious about it than I ever did. Whether that manifests in different sounding music or more or less production, I don’t know, but it’s kind of a rededication and re-evaluation that is going on. I’ve become increasingly less interested in people who aren’t doing personal work, or personal art.”

Hopefully the acoustics will allow us all to share in the introversion.

Melissa Giannini writes about music for the Metro Times. E-mail mgiannini@metrotimes.com

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