People of the North - Sub Contra [Thrill Jockey - 2015]People of the North formed in 2003, and it's an off shoot of the Brooklyn group Oneida. Their latest album "Sub Contra" was recorded at the Ocropolis in Brooklyn. I'm not familiar with Oneida or the past work of People of the North, but I can say that this new album is a total dud.
It begins interestingly with intense throbbing, but only remains interesting for about 20 seconds. This fleeting intensity is soon interrupted with random percussions that becomes random beats blanketed by decaying guitarish sounds. The drums completely lack direction like a child playing with their eyes closed. Blurry watery vocals come in and the music briefly calms down and becomes more linear, this is layered with a moaning guitar solo (?)… The song soon returns to a cacophony with lots of meaningless drawn out guitar noise, the whole thing feeling too jammy and unwritten.
The second track kicks in with a sparkly synth intro bordering on sounding new age but with thick dark guitar swells, high squeals and a major chord drone. It comes off like cliche meditation music with a slightly grittier edge. Then enter dissonant organ drones, the organ brings the song into the territory of Burzum's boring synth music but with some interesting high pitch warbling. Towards the end there are a few nice bass gurgles like water welling up through mud. By far this is the most organized track.
The next two songs vary little from each other with bassy square wave drones and more disorganized jammy drums. It feels like there is a large frequency range that is not being utilized and the music feels empty because of this. LIke the first track the these songs lack direction and the ultra dry drums could really stand some treatment if they are to have no pattern. And all this mess is accompanied by annoying high pitch squealing.
The last track begins with the familiar bass droning but starts off slower and more interesting. The track is actually quite good until the introduction of the percussion about two minutes in, there are some nice moving tremelo parts but the listener is distracted from them by more random unthought out drums. The drums become increasingly irritating and really are the down fall of what would have been a good track. Finally they end in the last minute and we return to a simple drone much more listenable then the past few minutes.
Altogether this record feels like very little thought or effort was put forth in its creation. Even if these songs are improvised it was done so lazily and seemingly without much intent. Not only is the music lacking on this disc but the production is also weak and the whole thing feels unmixed, the drums which I spoke of so bitterly in the rest of this review feel separate from the music as if they were an after thought to the whole thing. Can't say I find much redeemable about this album, but I would advise a little quality control for those involved.Jean-Paul Garnier