Monday, May 4, 2009

Live: Pterodactyl & Oneida

When: 4/25
Where: Secret Project Robot

To celebrate the release of their new LP Worldwild, Brooklyn-based Pterodactyl threw a major bash at DIY space Secret Project Robot, headlined by the longtime NYC rockers Oneida. The combination makes sense because the record was released by Brah Records, the label owned and run by the members of Oneida. But it also makes sense because of the striking musical parallels between the two groups.

Pterodactyl plays a skittering experimental rock, built around the extensive repetition of rhythmic, tense riffs. Despite all the repetition (which is a red-flag word for me when I see a review), the music is crammed full of twisted pop hooks and astonishing harmonies. The rhythmic interplay of major-key guitars is reminiscent of the best of Television – cutting distortion on nimble, interlocking arpeggios. At other times, they ring or snarl, hum or clang.

Pterodactyl (from

The multi-part vocal arrangements are creative collages of hollers and chants. The band’s willful disregard of key signature makes their music deliciously dissonant and makes the resolution into harmony all the more stunning. Holding up the foundation is a frantic clatter of drums, careening though jolting shifts in time signature at 100 mph. And though it’s sometimes buried under discord, distortion and fury, the band keeps afloat a thread of bright pop melody.

And true to the music’s joyous rage, the band members deliver with passion and heart, screaming, contorting and strangling their guitars into submission. At this show, the band performed behind thin veiling curtains (on which video was projected). It was somewhat of a needless gesture, but the band were active and visible enough that it did not detract, just added a slight air of mystery. And all the setup is irrelevant when the music is that good. [MySpace]

Oneida has been around the area for about a dozen years, but though far longer established, they are a natural fit for Pterodactyl; the two bands aim for the same thing – rhythmic, repetitive, loud music adorned with a tangle of pop hooks.

However, they start in two completely different places. While both give hints of krautrock influence, Pterodactyl’s approach seems to have its roots in punk and indie rock, most clearly through the shrieking delivery and math-rock-esque rhythm section. Oneida’s music, in contrast, shows more hints of prog metal and industrial. Their guitars have more weight and the use of electronics makes their music colder and rather more ominous than that of their younger counterparts.

I prefer Pterodactyl’s approach to Oneida’s, but I think that’s a matter of personal preference. Oneida doesn’t have the hints of jubilant melody that Pterodactyl does. Their live songs wore on rather longer and the repetitions extended beyond their life, with changes coming too slowly and too subtly for someone with my attention span. With far more and longer instrumental sections, Oneida offered little for me to hold on to.

However, the band has a dedicated following of fans who filled art-house space with genuine excitement. Looking around, it seemed to that when Oneida hit home with someone, they really hit home. The expressions on the bobbing heads indicated this wasn’t just a “liked” band, it was a favorite band.

If you’re not great with a heavy repetition-to-melody ratio, Oneida might not be the band for you. But if you enjoy the longer trances of Suicide, Can or Neu!, if you like to lose yourself in psychedelic trance-dance and rock out, Oneida is sure to please. [MySpace]

No comments: