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One of the most prolific, consistent, and unsung acts classified as slowcore, Los Angeles, California's Idaho is led by four-string guitarist and vocalist Jeff Martin, an unflinching songwriter who gained comparisons to Mark Eitzel (American Music Club), Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters), and Neil Young from the few journalists who paid attention. Despite the lack of recognition from the press and a low profile, Idaho gained a decent-sized underground following through a steady release schedule during the '90s, as well as sporadic touring. Through the 2010s, Idaho alternated between a full-band lineup and a solo outlet for Martin, who also plays drums, bass, and keyboards, and produces his recordings.
Martin and high-school friend John Berry began writing songs together in the '80s, meeting up occasionally throughout the years as something to do without a great deal of seriousness to it. They gave a tape of their work to an acquaintance who knew someone at Caroline, and soon enough, the duo found themselves with a recording contract. They debuted on the smaller Ringers Lactate label, however, with the "Skyscrape" single, and released the The Palms EP on Caroline later in 1993. The full-length Year After Year, with drumming duties split by Berry, Mark Lewis, and Unsane's Vincent Signorelli, was out by the end of the year.
Berry exited for 1994's This Way Out. Martin, joined by associates such as Lewis, Joey Waronker, Dan Seta, and Jeff Zimmitti, performed most of the instrumentation. Since Martin wanted Idaho to remain a touring entity, he enlisted a semi-permanent supporting cast and, in turn, gave up some of the writing responsibilities for 1996's Three Sheets to the Wind -- he had found it impossible to teach others the songs and have them play them the way he wanted. As a result, the bolstered lineup, which featured Lewis, Seta, and Terry Borden, made for Idaho's most muscular album to that point.
The band subsequently reverted back to a duo, with Martin retaining guitarist Seta as Lewis and Terry Borden formed Flotilla. They also signed on with the smaller Buzz label, releasing the less storming The Forbidden EP and Alas in 1997 and 1998, respectively. Martin then set up Idaho Music, thanks to a car accident settlement, and issued the live archival set People Like Us Should Be Stopped and the subdued Hearts of Palm in 2000. Martin continued to lead Idaho, often with involvement from familiar associates -- Berry included -- through the mid-2010s. Studio albums included Levitate (2001), The Lone Gunman (2005), and You Were a Dick (2011). During these years, Martin also assembled We Were Young and Needed the Money and The Broadcast of Disease, compilations of previously unreleased material; contents of the latter release dated back to the '80s. Berry died in his sleep in 2016. ~ Andy Kellman
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