Oneida has been a cornerstone of the Brooklyn underground for nearly two decades. Always evolving, the group has been a beacon of musical exploration and enthralling unpredictability, gaining legendary status among heads that know and expanding the limits of what it means to be a rock band. With a discography spanning over a dozen full-lengths, plus live releases, EPs, singles, and limited one-offs, Oneida has demonstrated a mastery of collective improvisation, off-kilter songwriting, complex composition, and everything in between.
In 2011 Oneida lost its home base, its studio dubbed the Ocropolis in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, due to the pervasive gentrification and over-development of the neighborhood that was once a thriving arts community. After watching the Monster Island building that housed the Ocropolis transform into a pile of rubble, the band began an intense period of exploration and discovery, retreating from the studio in favor of the stage, and birthing a panoply of limited, uncompromising releases that documented the band’s continuously unfolding journey. Six years after the release of A List of the Burning Mountains, the final emission from the Ocropolis, the band will release their newest studio creation Romance, their first album for Joyful Noise Recordings and a record marked by wild eclecticism, even for a group known for its shape-shifting nature.
Recorded over several years in various locales, the 11 songs on Romance are built around deeply developed long-arc rhythm/phase concepts, noise, yearning, blind guitar rage, longing, the lurch of dying electronics, and a multi-modal embrace of human fallibility and artifice. From the crackling synth-led opener “Economy Travel” to the expansive 18-minute epic “Shepherd’s Axe,” Romance is an album in constant flux. On “Bad Habit” the band employs phasing between organ and guitar to great, disorienting effect, while the primitive riffs of “Cockfight” offer a contrasting vision of rock minimalism. Listen closely on “Lay of the Land” and you will hear constant rhythmic development, with drummer Kid Millions eschewing repetition in favor of morphing patterns of hi-hat and snare. As with all mystery, Romance reveals more through closer attention and multiple listens.
Oneida, always formidable in the live environment, will be touring throughout the year. Kid Millions remains one of the most in-demand drummers in New York, exploring the outer reaches of percussion music with his own Man Forever project, as well as playing with Laurie Anderson, Royal Trux, and People of the North with Oneida compatriot Bobby Matador. Bobby also takes part in the psych-pop duo Nurse & Soldier, and recently formed yet another duo called New Pope. Guitarist Shahin Moita is a co-founder of underground stalwarts Ex Models and Knyfe Hyts. Through it all Oneida remains a powerful collective voice, a propulsive force for wildness and excitement, with Romance heralding the return of the epic, artful ballad version of the journey.