Oneida: The Wedding
Wed Jun 11 2008
Photograph: Lisa Corson
The Kitchen; Fri 13, Sat 14
Brooklyn’s Oneida has always made compelling and unusual melodies, but the group has tended to bury those moments under pounding guitar and drums or squalling analog synthesizers. Each One Teach One (from 2002) reached a certain apotheosis with its opening track: 14 minutes of one chord. So it was surprising when 2005’s The Wedding opened with a string-quartet arrangement of a song about a Swiss mountain.
From “Eleanor Rigby” and Deep Purple to Stereolab, the juxtaposition of popular music with high culture via orchestral string instruments has been fascinatingly varied, producing many memorable hits and misses. The main challenge is integrating the expanded instrumentation into the aesthetic of the band rather than having it sound tacked on. Oneida more than achieved this throughout The Wedding and on 2006’s similarly excellent Happy New Year.
Another hurdle, especially for semipopular bands that mainly perform in underground rock clubs, is translating such recordings to the stage. At the Kitchen, Oneida aims not to approximate but to expand on the original conception of The Wedding as a unified song cycle. The trio will be aided by genre-defying pianist Emily Manzo, as well as the group responsible for the strings on the album, Fireworks Ensemble, which transcends the traditional chamber-music world in much the same way as the Bang on a Can All-Stars. All that, plus a light show from Oneida’s longtime cohorts in Mighty Robot A/V Squad, should add up to what is billed as a “non-didactic rock opera,” in a coolly inviting and unpretentious space.