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People of the North - Era of Manifestations

"Era of Manifestations"

Release date: 23 March 2015
390 1600 300dpi
19 March 2015, 11:30 Written by Jennifer Jonson
Buried beneath the frenetic drum fills and the disjointed drone wails of People of the North’s Era of Manifestations is the understanding that silence is a void. With this record, the duo utilizes sounds - be they melodic or ambient, cacophonous or severe - to craft an audible topography. The landscape created isn’t necessarily accessible, but the myriad number of textures vying for sonic salience ensures that Era of Manifestations is consistently captivating.

Bobby Matador and Kid Millions of Brooklyn noise rock minimalists Oneida are the primary creative forces behind the band. Almost two decades decades spent tweaking krautrock rhythms and layering them with fuzzed-out guitars have turned the pair into master curators. With the help of their Oneida bandmate Shahin Motia and Sightings’ Richard Hoffman, People of the North set out to make a third record according to their own tried-and-tested approach.

In the latter portion of their career, Oneida has famously released albums that are essentially whittled-down collections of thousands of hours of studio improvisation. They’ve also been known to stage a continuous 10-hour jam or two at festivals in lieu of a more traditional set. People of the North sport a similar ethos; the phrase “Era of Manifestations” refers to a period of creative and spiritual fecundity in the Shaker movement. In the mid-19th Century, young members of the church - which has its origins in Quakerism - were prone to sudden “revelations” and ecstatic experiences. The spontaneous outpourings of creative energy were largely channeled into art. And, like its namesake, Era of Manifestations is positively euphoric when it achieves synchrony.

The title track begins disparately - scuzzy riffs and offbeat rhythms are delivered with the utmost confidence before ceding to a dominant oboe effect. Kid Millions smashes out drum fills with rapid precision, but instead of providing a percussive backbone for the track his rambling beats further muddle the ear. It’s easy to get the sense that every musician is an island here, though Millions definitely guides the improvisational flow, for better or worse. Because People of the North don’t strive for euphony, individual instruments and parts compete for the listener’s attention. Millions uses the prominence of his drumming to provide a scattered pulse across the record. His arrhythmias work like tidal pulls for the rest of the band, dragging them closer (and often farther) from recognisable structure. “The Whirling Gift” is chaos, though the sci-fi synth at work in the background helps to mollify some meandering electric guitar. There is a kind of concurrent vibe presiding over “Vise” that isn’t entirely present elsewhere. Drone synths combine with choppy white noise (think stacatto helicopter blades) to create a deep sense of foreboding. Millions’ percussion is notably absent from the song. And at only one minute 58 seconds, it’s both the album’s shortest and most cohesive offering.

However, waiting with baited breath for moments of unified composition in Era of Manifestations is going to be fruitless. The album’s many incongruous textures are sensory experiences: formless and visceral and not always easy to connect to. People of the North produce collisions rather than compositions, and those of us unable to embrace the tumult likely won’t appreciate their music. In the end, Era of Manifestations taps into an anarchic part of the psyche in which conflicts are always shifting shape, and therefore resonance (and resolution) prove hard to reach.

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