At this point, I’m pretty much convinced that Ida could do nothing that would disappoint me. The New York three-piece (sometimes using four, five or more pieces) has added another exquisitely morose release to its discography of hazy gorgeous reflection.
The Braille Night is the fraternal twin of last summer’s Will You Find Me, the result of having recorded too much material for just one record with the big-budget backing of Capitol, which in the end decided not to release WYFM. (TigerStyle picked it up). While not receiving the huge push it might have had it been released on the larger label, the record ended up on a bunch of year-end best-of lists, usually of the “Best Albums You Missed” variety. The Braille Night is in no way a “leftovers” album, however. After the original recording sessions, the band went back to the studio to rework some of the tracks and add a few extras that didn’t make it the first time around. Each one exhales the same melted regret, the same muted reconciliation found on WYFM, but with a darker, more wintry feel — enough to add a chill to even the thickest summer air.
Where WYFM had a definite dusky, sleepy quality, The Braille Night is late, late night, that blurry perpetuity that’s so late you figure you might as well stay up an hour or so longer to greet the sun. No good comes out of words spoken here. It’s best just to feel your way through to the morning.
The band appears to have felt its way through most of the songs on the album, too. Strung together with dissonant instrumental sorrow, each hushed, buoyant narration by Dan Littleton, Liz Mitchell and Karla Schickele communicates love, distance, misplaced philosophy and longing for some sense of nature and connection. It picks up where WYFM left off, continuing the themes of wide-open eyes, walking anywhere, hats and gloves. The title track originated from extended drone pieces improvised by Mitchell, Littleton and violinist Ida Pearle, but each song on the album has that understated, on-the-spot feeling.
In this sense, The Braille Night succeeds in mirroring the band’s live performance and some of its earlier work more so than the heavily polished WYFM. Fragile, relaxed and introspective, the creaks, squeaks and breaths are all there for everyone to enjoy — not just those lucky to have sat in on the recording process.
My only lament is that as a whole, while drowsily romantic and achingly heartfelt, The Braille Night is almost too much of a downer. The more “upbeat” songs, “Arrowheads” and “Blizzard of ’78” just make the tears flow at a quicker pace. And the album closer, “Moves Through the Air” couldn’t wedge in any more tragic inspiration. It kind of makes you want to stick a gun in your mouth and then it’s the end of the record. Where does that leave you? I guess right where Ida wants you to be. They storm out and then wait patiently for you to find them. Will you?
Melissa Giannini is the Metro Times staff music writer. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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