People of the North - Era of Manifestations - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

People of the North - Era of Manifestations

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:4.5 Release Date:2015-03-24

Brooklyn-based People of the North is the side-project/alter-ego of Onieda bandmates Kid Millions on drums and Bobby Matador on organ. They record in the Ocropolis, a decade-old custom studio that houses their endless improvisional efforts, and Era of Manifestations finds them jamming together once again and torturing their instruments alongside Richard Hoffman (bass) and fellow Onieda member Shahin Motia (guitar).

Unlike other albums under the name, which culled the final products from sometimes hundreds of hours of recordings, this one was knocked out in a mere five hours, and it shows. It leads off with a five-minute slab of whining, stumbling guitar feedback piled on top of intermittent bass notes and church organ warblings, with high-speed, mostly rhythmic drums developing and moving to the forefront after a few minutes.

Speaking of which, Kid Millions must be the hardest working drummer in the business. He seems to pound away non-stop for the entire length of the set, with huge, rolling progressions that loop back around on themselves again and again. Luckily, he's got the chops to pull it off, although it often seems as though there's not much attempt to coordinate efforts with the other instruments.

That's not to say it's all bad. Highlights include 'The Whirling Gift', a track where the duo come dangerously close to a groove, and 'Vise', where the quality of the noise produced would do Merzbow proud. 

The leadoff track, 'Grain Diagrams', actually has some clever moments as well, once you get past that initial slab. Clocking in at nearly 14 minutes, it finds a sweet spot of semi-coherent musicality halfway through, before collapsing back into a shattered mirror of sounds punctuated by angry grunting-frog notes. The title track itself has a middle-section where things actually get quiet, catching the listener's ear and rewarding attention with some interesting textures.

However, discovering the work draws inspiration from the 19th century Shakers (now practically extinct, thanks to prescribed vows of celibacy) and their predilection for ecstatic dance, everything clicks into place. Why yes, I could see someone having a seizure to this music. That's because Era of Manifestations puts itself in a tricky spot. It's too jumbled to find a lot to grasp onto with active listening, but too insistent to fade into the background either.

Overall, this is extremely challenging stuff, like a bad trip in a revival tent, and it's unlikely there are a lot of folks with the patience or interest to dive into the maelstrom looking for diamonds, pearls, or anything else. It lacks the thoughtfulness and depth of their previous works, and mostly feels like a rushed mess. Intensity does not always lead to genius.

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