Oneida – Rated O

January 01, 1970




It’s a funny thing. Growing up with rock, and its anchor in
strong dependable rhythms and electric-guitar explorations, it can be tough to
sit through the sweeping melodies of great classical composers because the
progression of movements seems so random and lacking in a steady beat. And
there’s no electric guitar. But what should be much harder to get accustomed to
– avant-garde soundscapes that rely by turns on repetition or austere,
meditative spaciness – are much easier to like. Steve Reich, Terry Riley, La
Monte Young, Angus MacLise, etc., all in some mysterious way relate to Link
Ray’s “Rumble” or that fuzzy guitar on the Rock and Roll Trio’s driving “Train
Kept A-Rollin.” And you can hear them all in the Velvet Underground or Eno or
Pink Floyd.


All of which is to say that while Oneida’s three-disc freakout of predominately
instrumental music, Rated O, may be
an experimental journey into unknown pockets of the post-rock universe, it’s
actually quite accessible. Just a little long. Even the most test-your-mettle
moments, as when the quintet channels Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music on “What’s Up, Jackal”, have a bounce you can
get behind. The group – drummer Kid Millions, keyboardist Bobby Matador,
bassist Hanoi Jane, guitarist Showtime and synth player/co-producer (with the
other band members) Barry London – does its best to confound its inherent
accessibility through all the weird names (not Barry London) and head-scratching
pronouncements that Rated O is the
middle part of an album trilogy, thus necessitating its need to be a three-disc
affair. But the sitar-driven space rock of the song “O” is gorgeous, stirringly
expansive music, and there are many other highlights. The slightly mad
chant-singing of guest Dod-Ali Ziai, amid the clangorous percussion and patches
of bubbly sampling in “Brownout in Lagos,” is delightful. And the exciting
Santana-meets-Vanilla Fudge guitar build-up on “Ghost in the Room” reminds you
that the electric guitar is our classical music now.


Maybe the symphony orchestras should rearrange Beethoven for
electric guitars and synths, and see if it brings in the rockers. And Oneida
could play it.


Standout Tracks: “Brownout in Lagos,”



[Read BLURT’s recent
interview with Oneida


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