People of the North may have begun life as a satellite of Brooklyn avant-everything institution Oneida, but it’s increasingly difficult to view the project as anything less than a primary concern. From the raw garage krautrock of 2010’s Deep Tissue to the snarled wavelength scrambling of 2013’s Sub Contra, People of the North is where organist Bobby Matador and drummer John Kid Millions—joined, frequently, by Oneida guitarist Shahin Motia—go to really let their hair down.
Sightings bassist Richard Hoffman sits in for Era of Manifestation, a dense suite of molten noise-jazz that suggests a deconstructed On the Corner sans funk and horns. The title references a period in the mid-1800s when American Shakers experienced visions, visitations, and other mystical phenomena. Its namesake, the result of a five-hour jam session, can often feel wondrous in an apocalyptically tactile way, as if all the world’s elements were being set against one another at the same time. The almost arbitrary way most of these compositions end—as though some stone-faced neighbor suddenly took an ax to the power line—simultaneously bolsters and subverts the manic intensity of the music.
The extended, variegated drone that kicks off opener "Grain Diagrams" is a head-fake; soon the drums are slamming with purpose, and the organ chords are clawing up through the stratosphere. On frenetic, crispy "The Whirling Gift", the unit jitterbugs mercilessly, a no-wave Rube Goldberg machine. The shorter takes are no less visceral: consider "Vise", where a twitchy organ hiccup is sacrificed, inch by inch, to a widening, distorted black hole, or the apoplectic Taser bebop that characterizes "Religion in Their Work".
It’s only on the title track that the quartet allows a bit of air—if not light—into its hermetically-sealed dome. A bristling, cacophonous groove explodes, then everything falls away, save right-channel distortion and a left-channel organ fugue. That stillness feels damning and isolated, but doesn’t last long, and the rest of "Era of Manifestations" is spent struggling to attempt to get back to its own speed. Unable to find traction, Millions pounds in futility, unfocused, while a frustrated Matador jabs and smothers his keys; every attempt to regain the previous velocity fails. A funny thing happens in the process: This venting creates a nervy, tug-of-war frisson that’s ultimately far more invigorating than what immediately preceded it. Like much of People of the North’s catalog, Era of Manifestations comes across as an attempt at extreme therapy; I secretly find myself hoping the band never quite finds the peace that its raging towards.