Oneida: Each One Teach One
The band Oneida, named after a utopic nineteenth century commune, hails from Brooklyn, New York. They are: Papa Crazy (guitar/vocals), Bobby Matador (aka Fat Bobby, keyboards), Kid Millions (drums), and Hanoi Jane (bass). They recently released a double album entitled Each One Teach One:
Part one: being an enquiry into the ethics of aural assault and battery.
Oneida call their musical style "psychedelic"—a term conjuring images of Pink Floyd-ian swirls of surreal sound. "Taking drugs to make music to take drugs to."
This is not music one would want to take drugs to. This is not the soundtrack to mind expansion, it is the soundtrack to madness.
Disc one of Each One Teach One opens with Sheets of Easter. The first seconds of lone vocal—"You've got to look into the.."—are not disconcerting in the least. But at three seconds of sound a vicious, pummeling, monotonous blast shatters forth—"LIGHTLIGHTLIGHTLIGHT!". This one riff, with barely any deviation, continues for the next fourteen minutes of your life. You keep wondering if it will let up, that's what gets you through the song on your first experience—suspense, and sheer masochism. As fascistic shouts of "LIGHTLIGHTLIGHT!" batter your eardrums, your mind focuses in on the subtly evolving background of electric hums, beeps, and buzzes. And are they always yelling "light," or has it become "sight," or "fight," or "night," or "right?" It's hypnotic, but it sounds more like electroshock therapy than a transcendent high. This is the definition of "polarizing," this is aural polemic without the need for lyrics. Like the noise music created by Merzbow (next to whom Oneida could be considered easy-listening), Oneida will either alienate you or ensnare you with these moments.
If you make it to track two, you'll find Antibiotics. The song opens with what sounds like a sonic translation of the EKG of a speed overdose. Spikes of sizzling synth merge with dynamic, circular drumming that sounds like the thwap of a helicopter's rotor. The sound is much more varied and interesting than "Sheets of Easter," and though the listener expects the song to continue in much the same fashion, the sound patterns mutate more quickly and completely, eventually incorporating squirming masses of saxophone-like synth, eventually losing one overlapping texture at a time, returning to the primordial ooze of gurgling electricity from whence it came. At this point, an organ breaks and dies. A pagan hymn: "people lived among the ruins, stone built up on stone." Choral chanting over squalling, sizzling death, and a slow, burning fade out.
Part two: being an exploration of the self-destruction of the post-modern / post-industrial era
Oneida's label, Jagjaguwar, has this to say about the band's themes: "Oneida has most recently specialized in: anxiety, dislocation, alienation and half formed terror." The classic themes of twentieth-century philosophy and art—everything that the Right fears in art and rock music. Personal isolation from God, from family, and from society, expressed in surreal or cubist depictions or in disjointed beats and screaming guitars.
Disc two begins with the titular track, Each One Teach One. Driving guitar converges with squealing faux-saxophone remeniscent of New York No Wave freakouts. Breathy, loudly whispered vocals are backed by music that sounds like the first half of "Antibiotics," with a similar background buzz and hum that periodically peaks. Wriggling dissonance alternates with subdued sections behind the vocals.
People of the North begins with an ominous bass thump and breaks immediately into a swirling explosion of noise. "The waves are breaking at our feet, an invitation on the sand." A freaky, carnival-like synth lilts in the backgroud. An extended instrumental section probes into the mass of noise as repetitive, zapping beats and guitars weave hypnotically.
Number Nine is no Beatles reference. The track opens with a driving and echoing electronic beat and vicious synths. The vaguely choral vocals evoke myth and mystery, punctuated by buzzing chants. These vocals are the most traditionally psychedelic flourishes on the two discs, spacey and otherworldly.
The bizzare, low-frequency synths of Sneak Into The Woods combine with menacing lyrics suggesting romantic kidnap: "Sneak into the woods! Carry it up to the hills! Now you know, let's get together. We're a couple now—you and me! ...there's a world out there, but I wanna be with you. To the hills, to the hills. Let's get together. We're a couple now—you and me!"
Rugaru is an instrumental track with a constant, steady drumbeat accompanied with chords from a roughly-handled piano. The music is puntuated with what sounds like the grindingly mechanical shouts of a malfunctioning robot, bellowing orders through a broken metal voicebox. Eventually all dies away but the wavering piano...
Black Chamber sounds like a songtitle from Scandinavian death metal, but it opens with a junkyard beat and loping, emotively percussive piano. Its surrealistic lyrics are easily the most interesting on the disc, sometimes evoking naturalistic awe, sometimes delerium tremens: "Can you understand the river by tasting at the stones, figure out Godzilla by looking at the bones? A million tiny insects crawling all over my skin, if I were to kill them all, where would I begin?"
The final track, No Label, is an instrumental that returns to "Black Chamber's" junky crashes and piano, repetitively meandering over squeals and creaks, subsiding gradually into an opaque hum.
Oneida — Each One Teach One
Sheets of Easter — 14.13
Antibiotics — 16.36
Each One Teach One — 3.25
People Of The North — 4.29
Number Nine — 2.53
Sneak Into The Woods — 1.58
Rugaru — 6.33
Black Chamber — 3.06
No Label — 4.57
Jagjaguawar website: http://www.secretlycanadian.com/jagjaguwar/
Jagjaguawar/Onedia website: http://www.secretlycanadian.com/jagjaguwar/oneida
Oneida website: http://www.enemyhogs.com