For the better part of a decade, Oneida has served as one of the most powerful, persistent and polarizing bands on the Brooklyn rock scene. They are something akin to the dreaded “smoke monster” on ABC’s Lost, barreling through an absurdist cornucopia of genres from folk to dancehall reggae to broken beat to stoner boogie in an improvised plume of static, noise and repetition, eviscerating any sound that gets in its way. On the other hand, People of the North, the sporadic, spacey side project of Oneida members drummer Kid Millions and keyboardist Bobby Matador, is more akin to ol’ Smokey disgused as John Locke—cool, cosmic and intensely calculating.
In the past, People of the North has served as a breeding ground of sorts for such future Oneida songs as tunes like “Lavender” off their critically acclaimed 2005 effort The Wedding and “Up With People” from 2006’s Happy New Year originated from these loose jam sessions Millions and Matador conspired under this particular moniker. However, with the release of its official debut album on Oneida’s own Jagjagwuar subsidiary label Brah Records, People of the North comes into its own with a debut LP that establishes this extended arm of the O as a formidable entity in its own right.
Released solely on vinyl and in the digital format, the four tracks that comprise Deep Tissue cut closer to the cloth of Oneida’s explosive, freeform concerts, as so bountifully documented on that group’s mammoth 2009 triple-disc Rated O, where Millions, Matador and guitarist /bassist Hanoi Jane really let their influences in the realms of kraut-rock, post-punk and ambient drone music fly ever so freakishly. Only on this largely instrumental People of the North album, the psychedelic stabs are more concentrated and dare it be said, even structured to a certain degree, playing up on Bobby and the Kid’s dynamics on their respective instruments. “Tunnels”, Deep Tissue’s explosive opener, and its 14-minute reprise “Over Me,” harbor the illusion of Can taking over for The Warlocks/Grateful Dead as the house band for Ken Kesey’s Acid Test parties. Meanwhile, the synthesized soundscapes and hallucinogenic vocals of “The Vastest Land” is like the ripest fruit to fall off the Silver Apple tree, whereas the Teutonic throb of “Summer Leaves” is the track most reminiscent of classic Oneida.
Whether or not you have the stomach for Millions and Matador’s full-time band, anyone who currently has such groups as Wooden Shjips, Moon Duo, Mugstar or even the O’s earlier works like 2002’s stellar Each One, Teach One in heavy rotation on their stereos at home or in their cars should definitely look into investing a little quality time up North.