Collaborations in the experimental music domain always bring something interesting to the table. Oneida is a great experimental rock band, encompassing elements of noise rock, psychedelia and krautrock, as a method of crafting a diverse sound. Having released a plethora of records, mostly through Jagjaguwar, they are now putting out their first collaborative full-length with Rhys Chatham. Chatham is a master of experimental music, with an aptitude for the avant-garde and minimalistic extensions of the genre. What brings Oneida and Chatham together, is that they both rely on their improvisational skills, and What's Your Sign? unveils how such a coalition can work to maximum effect.
It is all about experimentation, with whatever aspect of sound tempering comes naturally. Avant-garde motifs, huge sonic collages appear in the record, an example being “Bad Brains,” as elements are deconstructed and merged into each other. The pivotal role of the effects and processing comes into play in that respect, filling the space with noisescapes of harsh qualities, or heavy drones aimed at asphyxiating the listener. The hypnotic quality that arises sets the scenery in the most graphic manner, as spaced-out themes begin to appear, with the krautrock aspect coming into full effect, in moments such as “Well Tuned Guitar.”
It is the free rock spirit that binds everything to this end. The standard rock form is mutated through implementation of No Wave ethics. Reverse progression and chord arrangements collide, illuminating a twisted sense of reality, a sense of setting out on a journey to no end. Moving away from structured composition, improvisation becomes the most essential part of this work, and never seizing to amaze, moves the record through numerous sonic adventures. From art-rock moments, as in “The Mabinoglan,” to noise rock grandeur, with full on distortion, this ride is kept at a high level throughout.
The jump from free rock to free jazz, even though both genres revere improvisation, is not easily completed. However, Oneida and Chatham fearlessly dwell into this realm with the two final tracks of the album, resulting in an uncompromising recital of free jazz aesthetics. Minimalistic touches come to the front, with the music dialed down in order to achieve a meditative tone, a point where consciousness seizes to exist. More challenging and furious aspects come through, with Oneida and Chatham controlling the dynamics and understanding how one action will bring the next, while “Civil Weather” closes perfectly this endeavor with a stunning trumpet performance amidst the blossoming drone setting. Everything is wrapped up brilliantly, highlighting the quality that is achievable when two experimental sonic entities meet.
8.2 / 10
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