Oneida
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
A Place Called El Shaddai's , 6.5/10
Enemy Hogs , 6.5/10
Come On Everybody Let's Rock , 6.5/10
Anthem Of The Moon , 6/10
Each One Teach One , 7/10
Secret Wars (2004), 6/10
The Wedding (2005), 6/10
Happy New Year (2006), 6.5/10
Preteen Weaponry (2008) , 6/10 (mini)
Rated O (2009), 7/10
Absolute II (2011), 5.5/10
Man Forever: Man Forever (2010), 6.5/10
Man Forever: Pansophical Cataract (2012), 6/10
People Of The North: Deep Tissue (2010), 6/10
People Of The North:Steep Formations (2012), 7/10
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New York-based Oneida, consisting of drummer Kid Millions (John Colpitts), guitarist and vocalist Papa Crazy, keyboardist Bobby Matador and bassist Hanoi Jane, initially updated the tradition of garage-rock to noise-rock while adding the dark intensity of hard-rock.

The disjointed music of A Place Called El Shaddai's (Turnbuckle, 1998), particularly the lengthy jam Ballad Of Vaurice (12 minutes), recalls Red Crayola but is too convoluted to be a real "freak-out". The 12 short tracks of Enemy Hogs (Turnbuckle, 1999 - Jagjaguwar, 2001) presented Oneida as a bunch of wild and bizarre garage-rockers covering noise-rock tunes (e.g., Blue Cheer covering Sonic Youth). The album works best when pandemonium arises, where free-jazz and Chrome meet, as in the closing nine-minute O.L.B..

The singles Best Friends (1999) and Steel Rod (2000) perfected the idea, but the third album, Come On Everybody Let's Rock (Jagjaguwar, 2000), displayed the same uncertainty. The best songs were the most traditional, like I Love Rock, Major Havoc, Snow Machine, and Pure Light Invasion (that revisits the Byrds' So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star).

The band's ambiguity continued to be their identity on Anthem Of The Moon (Jagjaguwar, 2001). Its songs can be both silly-melodic and punchy (All Arounder, To Seed and Flower), indulge in the non-linear harmonies and tempos of progressive-rock (the frantic, jazzy Still Rememberin Hidin' in the Stone, reminiscent of Frank Zappa's Uncle Meat) and sail away on an acid trip (the Grateful Dead-ian litany over cacophony of Dead Worlds) but something is still missing: a coherent idea of what Oneida is trying to play. The shorter pieces may shed some light: the abrasive and cacophonous punk-rock of the one-minute overture New Head; the surreal, distorted carillon of Geometry; the haunting piano figure and ghostly vocals of Ballad of Impervium; the hypnotic, funereal, Middle-eastern poly-chant Almagest. The longer tracks are less revealing, as they run the gamut of rock styles and contradict each other. The 12-minute Double Lock Your Mind evolves from an Hendrix-style guitar orgy into a lengthy frantic psychobilly, halfway between the Cramps and Ten Years After. An exotic melody, an African beat and a hyper-distorted organ propel the psychedelic, trancey pow-wow of People of the North, the main achievement of the album and the launching pad for the next evolutionary step.

The confusion of Oneida's mission in life increases and reaches mental-institution levels on Each One Teach One (Jagjaguwar, 2002). Sheets of Easter opens the proceedings simply repeating for 14 minutes the same (virulent) riff, vocals and drumming (a sort of Sister Ray for the mentally handicapped, or imagine a merging of Suicide's Ghost Rider and Amon Duul's Phallus Dei). The 16-minute Antibiotics is another frantic, repetitive bacchanal, in which a syncopated, acid organ riff collides against distorted guitar-driven jamming. The guitar and the organ occasionally turn the volume up, but mostly they play the same notes over and over again (the last seven minutes are completely different, a cosmic-psychedelic fugue a` la Pink Floyd's Astronomy Domine, but they sound like a gratuitous appendix).
The other seven tracks return to the song format, although hardly to friendly sounds. The scratching/shrieking guitar solo and the insistent boogie rhythm of Each One Teach One bridge the artsy propensities of the longer tracks and the garage-rock underpinning of the shorter ones. People of the North (already featured on the previous album) is enhanced with a techno beat and derailed by harsh industrial and cosmic dissonances to increase the similarity with Suicide. The demented litany of Number Nine harks back to the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour, despite an invasive sitar line. Rugaru is a dadaistic ballet for androids that growl to the moon. And the closing No Label is its melancholy, apocalyptic counterpart, a mournful march through a nuclear wasteland.
The overall effect of the album is harrowing.

Oneida's problem is still self-indulgence (of the worst kind, the one that afflicts talented musicians) on Secret Wars (Jagjaguwar, 2004). The aesthetics of their whimsical, multifaceted, dilated pieces is to reproduce psychedelic, progressive, kraut, noise and minimalist techniques on a massive scale. Initially, this seems only partially true about this album, because most of the songs are quite constrained. But even the shortest compositions display that attitude. Once you remove the attitude from Treasure Plane, $50 Tea and The Last Act Every Time not much is left to discuss. The most intense track is the shortest, Capt Bo Dignifies The Allegations With A Response. The 14-minute Changes in the City is a rather inferior version ("dilated" also as far as inspiration goes) of the music of Each One Teach One. The emphasis on Sonic Youth-ian repetition does not help make Oneida's music sound original. But this is certainly their most "accessible" albums. So in terms of applying their avantgarde ideas to the song format this could become their Sister (the album that signaled Sonic Youth's transition to the mainstream).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Gabriele Crozzoli)

Gli Oneida sono una band di New York che ha portato la tradizione del garage-rock verso il noise-rock, cui ha aggiunto l’oscura intensità dell’ hard-rock. La discontinua musica di A Place Called El Shaddai's (Turnbuckle, 1998), particolarmente nella lunga jam Ballad Of Vaurice (12 minuti), richiama i Red Crayola ma è troppo involuta per essere davvero "freak-out". Le 12 corte tracce di Enemy Hogs (Turnbuckle, 1999 - Jagjaguwar, 2001) presenta gli Oneida come un manipolo di selvaggi and bizzarri garage-rockers che coverizzano pezzi noise-rock (es., Blue Cheer coverizzanti Sonic Youth). L’ album colpisce specialmente quando il disordine aumenta, dove free-jazz e i Chrome si incontrano, come nella conclusiva traccia di nove minuti O.L.B..

I singoli Best Friends (1999) e Steel Rod (2000) perfezionarono l’idea, ma il terzo album, Come On Everybody Let's Rock (Jagjaguwar, 2000),mostra le stesse incertezze. Le migliori canzoni sono le più tradizionali, come I Love Rock, Major Havoc, Snow Machine, e Pure Light Invasion (che aggiorna la Byrdsiana So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star).

Anthem Of The Moon (Jagjaguwar, 2001) suona sia melodico che energico (New Head, All Arounder), indulge in armonie non lineari e ritmi del progressive-rock (Geometry, Still Rememberin' Hidin' in the Stones, Dead Worlds) e improvvisa jam a` la Grateful Dead (Double Lock Your Mind, To Seed and Flower) ma qualcosa ancora manca: una idea coerente di cosa stiano cercando di suonare.

La confusione della missione degli Oneida aumenta e raggiunge livelli da istituto mentale su Each One Teach One (Jagjaguwar, 2002). Sheets of Easter apre le danze semplicemente ripetendo per 14 minuti lo stesso (virulento) riff, canto e drumming (una sorta di Sister Ray per malati mentali, o immagina di mixare i Suicide di Ghost Rider e l’Amon Duul di Phallus Dei). La traccia di 16 minuti Antibiotics è un’ altro frenetico, ripetitivo baccanale, dove un sincopato ed acido riff di organo si accartoccia contro una distortissima chitarra. La chitarra e l’ organo occasionalmente alzano il volume, ma soprattutto suonano le stesse note all’infinito (gli ultimi sette minuti sono completamente differenti, una fuga cosmico - psichedelica tipo la Pink Floydiana Astronomy Domine, ma suona come un gratuito appendice).
Le altre sette tracce tornano al formato canzone, e a suoni più "amichevoli". Lo stridulo e gracchiante assolo di chitarra e l’insistente boogie di Each One Teach One, unisce le propensioni artistiche delle tracce più lunghe con il garage-rock di quelle più corte. Beat techno ed una melodia esotica spingono l’ iper-distorto pow-wow di People of the North, la traccia più "alla Suicide" dell’album, che presto deraglia per ruvide dissonanze industriali e cosmiche. La litania demente di Number Nine riporta ai Beatles di Magical Mystery Tour, malgrado una invasiva linea di sitar. Rugaru è un balletto dadaistico per androidi che ululano alla luna. E la conclusiva No Label, con la sua melanconica, apocalittica controparte, è una marcia lamentosa che pare attraversare una terra sepolta da polveri nucleari.
L’impatto dell’album è a dir poco straziante.

Il problema è ancora l’auto-indulgenza (quella della peggior specie, cioè quella che affligge i musicisti più talentuosi) su Secret Wars (Jagjaguwar, 2004). L’estetica dei loro pezzi eccentrici, multisfaccettati e dilatati serve per riprodurre psichedelia, progressive, kraut, noise e minimalismo su di una scala omogenea. Inizialmente, questo sembra solo parzialmente vero per questo album, poiché la maggior parte delle canzoni sono abbastanza forzate. Ma anche i brani più corti mostrano quell’attitudine. Rimossa l’attitudine da Treasure Plane, $50 Tea and The Last Act Every Time e resta poco da discuterne. La traccia più intensa è proprio la più breve, Capt Bo Dignifies The Allegations With A Response. I 14 minuti di Changes in the City sono una versione inferiore ("dilatata" man mano che l’ispirazione cala) della musica di Each One Teach One. L’enfasi sulla ripetizione a’ la Sonic Youth non aiuta il sound della musica degli Oneida ad essere più originale. Tuttavia questo è certamente il loro album più accessibile. Così, con questi termini di appianamento di idee d’avanguardia al formato canzone, questo potrebbe essere il loro Sister (l’album che segnò la transizione dei Sonic Youth al mainstream).

The four-song EP Nice Splittin' Peaches (Ace Fu, 2005) contains 15-minute psychedelic opus Hakuna Matata.

Scientifically investing in the combined otherworldly sound of synthesizers, a giant home-made musicbox and a string ensemble, The Wedding (Jagjaguwar, 2005) attains a kind of zen transcendence. The main drawback is that, with the notable exception of the seven-minute The Beginning Is Nigh, the compositions sound hurried and incomplete. Each song sort of disables itself before it has begun functioning. Lavender and You're Drifting initially sound energetically enough to build up to a climax of sort, but they end abruptly. High Life and Charlemagne wink at pop music but lack the hook to anchor at. The strings work well on The Eiger, but fail to add something truly unnerving to the rest. Spirits does a decent job of creating an eerie atmosphere (even echoes of the Doors' The End), but declines to do something with it.

The highlight of Happy New Year (Jagjaguwar, 2006) is the demonic eight-minute Up With People (syncopated drumming and dadaistic noise growing to a frantic funky riff, then a new layer of distorted guitar appears leading to a catchy refrain after which the repetitive riff gets more and more insistent and polyphonic). However, its intensity is not matched by the other tracks of the album. The Adversary too is Oneida at their best, furthering ideas that were first explored by Can, This Heat and Sonic Youth, and secreting an epic crescendo. The austere ballet History's Great Navigators for minimalist piano, atonal harpsichord and tribal drums also stands out. Generally speaking, though, Oneida goes for a calmer, more pastoral (Busy Little Bee), mellow (the seven-minute Thank Your Parents) and almost mystical (You Can Never Tell) sound. Distress could be Simon & Garfunkel singing medieval motets.

Oneida's guitarist Pat "Papa Crazee" Sullivan left Oneida and started the alt-country band Oakley Hall that released Oakley Hall (Bulb, 2005), Second Guessing (Amish, 2006), Gypsum Strings (Brah, 2006), I'll Follow You (2007) and Second Guessing (2008).

The number of influences on Oneida's mini-album Preteen Weaponry (2008), featuring Trans Am's Phil Manley, is overwhelming but they are not amalgamated in an organic whole and therefore the three-part composition sounds merely meandering and inconsequential. This is the post-rock equivalent of baroque music. Kid Millions' drumming frequently steals the show. This mini-album marked the beginning of the "Thank Your Parents" trilogy.

Rated O (Jagjaguwar, 2009), featuring Shahin Motia of Ex-Models and Barry London, coined an even more ambiguous form of music with the deconstructed ebullient structures of Brownout In Lagos (booming hip-hop beat that propels industrial clangor, galactic signals, shamanic chanting and rapping, closer to Tackhead than post-rock), Story of O (a chugging bacchanal in between Soft Machine's frigid jazz-rock and Chrome's alien acid-rock), Saturday (ethereal stoned vocals drowning in a lattice of tribal drumming and distorted guitar licks), Luxury Travel (an exotic chant that is devoured by horrible guitar noise in a psychotic crescendo), and Ghost In The Room (a guitar showcase that ends in cascading pummeling hard-rock riffs).
The 12-minute post-techno locomotive 10:30 At The Oasis churns out clownish synth effects and repetitive melodic patterns, slowly bringing the extreme sounds of the guitar and the electronics to the forefront.
The hyper-doom hypnosis of the ten-minute The Human Factor (with an ear-splitting twitching noise instead of the bass drone, and a demented shout instead of the stereotypical growl) and the slowly-coalescing 13-minute gypsy-raga O went in the opposite direction of the even lengthier 21-minute Folk Wisdom that meanders through the guitar's convoluted stream of consciousness for the only purpose of refining the relentless beat.
The rule seems to be that the shorter the song, the faster and more violent it has to be. Hence the orgiastic dance of What's Up Jackal simply loops around percussive patterns and vocal snippets, while the zombie-like chant of The River employs an extreme version of Neu's motorik rhythm, and I Will Haunt You pulse and whirls like a neutron star after a collision with a supernova. The Life You Preferred adds Amon Duul II-style pomp and a Middle Eastern guitar line. The notable exception is End Of Time, a cute musical aphorism for sound effects that updates Pink Floyd's Time to the age of doom.

Absolute II (2011), the last chapter in the "Thank Your Parents" trilogy, is a mini-album divided into four lengthy pieces. The problem is that each of them is short in ideas and long in implementations: the art of minimalist repetition and ambient languor is pushed to the limit.

Man Forever is drummer Kid Millions's side-project, whose wildly overdubbed 35-minute long Man Forever, off Man Forever (St Ives, 2010), stood as the drumming equivalent of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. Two more extended compositions appeared on Pansophical Cataract (Thrill Jockey, 2012), notably Ur Eternity, another peak of drumming counterpoint.

Oneida's drummer Kid Millions and keyboardist Bobby Matador are also the engines of People Of The North, whose mini-album Deep Tissue (2010) was all over the map (of psychedelic/progressive music), and contained the 14-minute percussive tour de force of Tunnels, and whose Steep Formations (Brah, 2012) tried to fuse all their sources of inspiration into two monolithic improvisations. The 40-minute Border Waves opens with Millions' terrifying drumming maelstrom to which Matador slowly adds dirty drones. The drumming eruption continues undeterred while the drones swell and turn into glacial winds, into shards of cosmic icebergs that cut through entire galaxies. The second 20 minutes are calmer, and a bit redundant, as the distorted drones take centerstage without quite knowing what to do with it. A didjeridoo-like rumble hovers over Steep Formations for 14 minutes, barely changing shape (for the worse), and becomes a badly corrupted "om" spreading all over the universe for the next 15 minutes until only a feeble echo is left.

Oneida's Kid Millions (drums) and Borbetomagus' Jim Sauter (tenor sax) recorded the vinyl Fountain and the cassette Bloom (april 2014 - Astral Spirits, 2015).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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