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V/A - Koozies, Woodies & Beers: A Brah/Ocropolis Benefit Compilation for Japan Relief

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Artist: V/A

Album: Koozies, Woodies & Beers: A Brah/Ocropolis Benefit Compilation for Japan Relief

Label: Brah

Review date: Jul. 17, 2012

Koozies, Woodies & Beers documents the restless, genre-slipping scene that grew up around NYC art rockers in Oneida, gathering 19 tracks from bands closely (and loosely) associated with Oneida. All were recorded in the now defunct Ocropolis (the second of Oneida’s home-built studios to be squeezed out by gentrification), each band getting free run of the studio for four hours of recording and four hours of mixing. Like the all-day psychedelic freak-out which closed out Oneida’s tenure at the Monster Island facility, this compilation tests listeners’ willingness to jump boundaries, their ability to consider music and noise as a continuum (or maybe the same thing) and, most of all, their endurance. But it also demonstrates the reach, the relentless inquiry and the fuck-it-all self-actualization of the community that grew up around Oneida in the mid- to late-2000s.

Like Oneida, whose records have lately jumped from string-swathed art pop (The Wedding) to extended Kraut-ish grooves (Preteen Weaponry) to overstuffed, triple-album excess (Rated O) to austere, minimalist drones (Absolute II), this compilation is difficult, perhaps impossible, to sort into any kind of category. There’s a surprisingly melodic interval that runs from Noveller’s “Bleached Beach” through Oakley Hall’s “Puppets on the Wheel” and on to the Wingdale Community Choir’s “So What.” There’s a very noisy, challenging arc late in the disc, extending from Audrey Chen’s aptly named “Squalling” through Mark Morgan’s acid blistered “Take It In Trade,” though the mood breaks somewhat, midway through, in Zombi’s synth-percolating, android-chilly “Escape Velocity.”

Regardless of style, you get the sense that the bands felt they had full license to pursue whatever eccentricities made sense to them, that there were no limits imposed or guidelines given. For one thing, cuts are given lots of time to develop. Four break the 10-minute mark; seven more top five minutes. White Hills kicks in a side-spanning, elemental masterwork in “Spiritual Warfare,” building slow gnosis out of drone, repetitive rhythm and overtone.

The connective thread, of course, is Oneida. Many of the bands have recorded at the Ocropolis before — that goes for Morgan (of Sightings), White Hills and Liturgy — and others, like Oakley Hall, are more or less family. A few of the obvious choices are missing. Noveller is the only one from Parts & Labor (and she a relatively late addition), and none of Dirty Faces or Seconds/Ex Models contributes a track. Yet even the bands most loosely tied to the O sound like they’ve drunk the Kool-Aid. Akron/Family has rarely sounded so wild and woolly. The Notekillers tap into a driving, splintering chaotic insanity that sounds very much like Kid Millions anchoring a free improv post-punk group. I’m hearing a good bit of Oneida’s jammier, trippier side (a la “Cream Puff War”) in The Sloppyheads’ “Resistance in Futile!” Nearly everyone seems to have borrowed at least an accessory or two from the host’s wardrobe.

The compilation works on its own merits, but it’s worth mentioning that it also benefits Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims via charities nominated by Shinji Masuko of DMBQ and Boredoms. It’s a fitting nod to the noisy, trippy, unpredictable scene documented on this record, which may be concentrated in Brooklyn, but which has friends and obligations all over the world.

By Jennifer Kelly

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