Few albums are as polarizing as Lou Reed's 1975 noise opus Metal Machine Music. The vast majority of Reed's fans dismissed it out of hand, reacting with varying degrees of confusion and disgust (some even theorized that it was a joke or a fuck-you message to his label), but a few – like music critic Lester Bangs – appreciated Reed's questing spirit and applauded his foray into musique concrète.
Saying your work is inspired, even born from, Metal Machine Music, then, is a bold move, not to mention a fairly efficient audience-sorter. Kid Millions, drummer for Jagjaguwar psych stalwarts Oneida, credits the initial inspiration of his solo project, Man Forever, to a live performance of MMM.
"The first Man Forever record, which is just called Man Forever and came out on a small label [St. Ives], that was influenced by me seeing a live performance by a chamber orchestra of Metal Machine Music performed by this group called Fireworks Ensemble," says Millions (né John Colpitts). "I was asked to do a solo album, and I didn't know what I was gonna do, and then I saw this performance [and thought] maybe I could do a similar kind of thing for acoustic instruments ... and it all kinda came together."
That first Man Forever album is a rolling, rumbling sine wave featuring luminaries of the indie world, including Guardian Alien's Greg Fox and Yeah Yeah Yeah's Brian Chase, in its breathless 35 minutes. Millions' next album as Man Forever, Pansophical Cataract (Thrill Jockey, 2012), continued the endurance test, weaving in some guitar, bass and organ noise to augment the waterfall of sound. It also confronts more directly the influence of Steve Reich surely felt by every modern percussionist. Drumming on a desktop that's just out of sight during our Skype interview, Millions evokes those "interstitial moments in Steve Reich's music where the patterns phase, so there's this brief ... area where everything gets blurry, where all the patterns shift time."
"I just kinda took that element and applied it to a longer composition," he says over the tiny drum roll.
Fans of Oneida's psych-drone-noise jams won't be surprised, exactly, by Man Forever, but Millions' evolution into pure percussion distills that earlier tumble of noise into a pure, technical expression. A lot of modern percussion compositions are meditative, slowing the pulse and quieting the mind. But listening to Man Forever is more like running a race. The sustained, phasing patterns have you leaning forward almost involuntarily; at the end of a piece, you won't feel smoothed out – there's definitely a release of physical and mental tension, but it's more like letting out a long-suspended breath you didn't even realize you were holding.
That machined precision is further advanced on Ryonen (released this year on Thrill Jockey) by the awe-inspiring abilities of So Percussion, darlings of the modern classical scene, who perform the two melodic, propulsive tracks that make up the album. Millions composed Ryonen specifically for So Percussion, but firmly resists being put in the "modern classical" pigeonhole.
"It's just a label, right? ... I wouldn't spend too much time trying to wrestle with that stuff," he sighs. "But I am trying to have it be music that's compelling to So Percussion. I wanted them to be excited to play it, so I tried to make it a bit more technically challenging so they wouldn't be sleeping through it."
Local heavy hitters Thad Anderson, Kaylee Bonatakis, Jeremy Katalenic, Ian McLeod, Matt Peters and Matt Roberts will support Millions on this date at Will's Pub. On Man Forever's club dates, he says, "It's just a trio, generally, and I only play the first track. I play the second piece when I play with So, and I will when I play in Orlando. So I don't play it much. So that'll be cool!" Anderson, who leads UCF's percussion program, will also premiere a new solo work, and the show opens with Roberts and Bonatakis playing three short modern works.
Although Oneida has played a few Florida dates, none were in Orlando. Christopher Belt, who presents this show under his Accidental Music Festival moniker with the help of a United Arts grant, says, "I actually flirted with the idea of bringing Oneida the year we had Deerhoof ."
He continues, "What really sold me on this show was seeing the premiere of these pieces with So Percussion at le Poisson Rouge. Yo La Tengo was sitting at the table in front of me. (That certainly doesn't hurt your credibility in my book.) When the show started it was just epic and they played with so much intensity and the music was completely alive and engaging. It just took me like a wave."