Oneida - A List of The Burning Mountains - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Oneida - A List of The Burning Mountains

by Daryl Worthington Rating:8 Release Date:2012-11-12

Oneida are one of those bands that, whatever they do, always seem to be underappreciated, almost as if their fans want to keep Oneida as their own secret pleasure. Over a 15 year career, they have experimented with a multitude of different styles without loosing their own unique personality. They've adopted elements from classic heavy rock and prog without becoming cheesy, and taken techniques and ideas from noise and avant-garde music without loosing their sense of fun and dry humour.

Their newest album, A List of the Burning Mountains, is comprised of two 19-minute tracks. When I saw this was the case, I assumed I'd be hearing two 19-minute riff monsters, perhaps similar to their controversial calling card 'Sheets of Easter'. This was, of course, silly of me. As ever, Oneida have thrown a curve-ball, creating an album of heavy drones and beautiful textures.

As the title suggests, this is an album which conjures up images of the natural world. Previous releases, such as their last, the triple album Rated O, always seemed to have an urban, mechanical atmosphere to them, in large part due to their motorik beats and heavy use of synths. On List…, they've managed to take the same tools and create something more earthy, and in many ways more widescreen.

The opening track is the more heavy and aggressive of the two. Beginning with soft, subtle drones, the track launches into a demonic cacophony. This comes across like Brian Wilson's 'Mrs O'Leary's Cow' from Smile, a song written to represent fire, but 'Mrs O'Leary's Cow' if it was being re-imagined by Sunn 0))). The lurching, menacing bass sounds like the shifting of tectonic plates; if Wilson was trying to represent fire, Oneida sound positively volcanic.

As track one progresses, a contrast is introduced in the arrangement. Discordant, chaotic guitar riffs come to the fore. However, these are built on top of ecstatic, at points almost orchestral sounding, shifting drones and textures. The two contrasting elements combine to provide a metaphor for nature in general and, more specifically, the volcanoes one assumes the title alludes to, an alarming visceral power but one which can have a breathtaking beauty.

Oneida live shows are a demonstration of heavy riffs and raucous energy. However with the second part of this album, they show they can also make something achingly beautiful. Built on violin like synth chords, the piece for some reason brings Basinski's The Disintegration Loops to mind. Obviously, the method behind the creation is completely different: Oneida's music is made by a band playing together rather than decaying magnetic tape. However, like Basinski's work, Oneida's is built on subtle textural changes, fragments of melodies and rogue harmonies entering and leaving the piece, alongside distorted guitar and organ drones. This is not a piece which relies on abrupt dynamic shifts to be engaging, but gradual progressions and evolutions.

The second track also allows Oneida's drummer, Kid Millions, to truly excel himself. Whereas previously he has wowed with his rhythmic intensity and precision, this shows the diversity of his talents. The drums float over the arrangement, perfectly complimenting the textures and driving the piece without descending into rhythmic clichés, or over-shadowing any of the other components.

Oneida have always existed just outside of what is fashionable. As this album further proves, they are a band unwilling to compromise their artistic vision in pursuit of commercial gain, and for that they are worthy of praise. This album is unlikely to be their commercial breakthrough hit, but that perhaps says more about our culture than it does Oneidas ability to write thrilling, ambitious and engaging music.

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