A List of The Burning Mountains follows Oneida’s Thank Your Parents triptych of records released between 2008 and 2011. The first of this trilogy was Preteen Weaponry, a psychedelic kraut-prog jam divided into three long tracks. Next was the triple-CD set Rated O, an assured multi-genre demonstration of everything the band is capable of, from industrial ragga and booming jackal-disco to psych-rock callisthenics and screaming noise-rants. The final chapter was Absolute II’s minimalist ambient fuzz which seemed to have been created by Brian Eno’s mutant twin suffering from a particularly harrowing gin hangover.
It was also around this time that Oneida started showcasing their ‘Ocropolis’ performances outside of their hometown; ridiculous 12-hour live jam sessions staged at various ATP events, notable not only for their hypnotic, trance-inducing musical explorations, but also for the astounding fact that at no point during any of these shows did drummer Kid Millions’ arms fall off.
A List of the Burning Mountains consists of just two tracks, each stretching to the near-twenty minute mark. The first number aspires to bridge the gap between Absolute II’s gloomy ambiance and Preteen Weaponry’s punk-prog jammery, though ultimately it’s not as satisfying as either. Millions’ insane drum skills were noticeably absent from Absolute II. They return here in a rather different form. His style is looser and lazier, with less thrusting momentum. He’s resisting playing to his strengths, instead bashing away at his kit with a near-stubborn randomness. Mind you, this is a man who’s just released an avant-garde album-length drum roll record inspired by Metal Machine Music, so you can’t expect him to always play friendly. The music he arbitrarily thumps over consists of intense, claustrophobic drones and drill-like guitar grinds. It gets a little lighter and trippier around the eight-minute mark, with Millions contemplating a standard rhythm every now and again. It’s Oneida’s take on noise music, really. Because Oneida are usually so animated, vibrant, and essentially optimistic in mood, however, their efforts to sound deliberately dark and awkward feel too forced and contrived, unlike those groups who naturally trade in such anguished clatterings (fellow Brooklynites Sightings, for example, or the gaggle of Michigan-based ear-botherers).
For track two, Millions again messes around with the jumbling jazz drums, only this time the music has a floatier, cosmic vibe. But if the darkness of the first track didn’t completely convince, there is something equally unpersuasive about this attempted space-rock workout. It wants to break free, launching into to the stratosphere, leaving the Earth behind as it shoots past screaming, gleaming comets and vast, pulsating nebulas, but something is holding it back; it stays shackled to gravity like a damp, frustrated firecracker.
A List of the Burning Mountains resembles a small, amputated segment of one of Oneida’s mammoth Ocropolis jams, although not necessarily the best bit(s). The overall impression is that the improvisation was more enjoyable to perform or to witness at the time than to listen to after the fact.
It’s an experiment, basically: they’re trying out a few new techniques to add to their abundant repertoire and it’ll be interesting to see what direction this energetic, inventive and prolific group will take next. A Oneida stop-gap rehearsal session is more satisfying than most bands’ carefully crafted showcase albums, but this LP doesn’t reach the same dizzy heights as their previous run of mind-blowing releases.
6J.R. Moores's Score