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Review: People Of The North – The Caul


People of the North continue to explore existential concepts with their latest offering The Caul, an immersive storytelling through improvisation and deliberate abstraction.

Kid Millions and Bobby Matador began as Oneida, a Brooklyn based rock band that delved into the likes of psychedelia, krautrock, electronica, and anything avant-garde from the norm. Today, they make up People of the North, who yet again have delivered an album that showcases their desire to “create explorative music and push the limits in performance”.

Focusing on a particular musical concept, the pair takes pride in producing relentlessly abstract music for the wider audience, and in doing so, the challenges they embody are both remarkable and invigorating. A ‘caul’ is a piece of membrane that covers the head and face of a new-born, and according to folklore, those born with one are able to alter between logical and liminal states. Bobby enlightens that “there are historical associations with cauls around precognition, superstition, and protection.” It is these relations that form the foundations of ‘The Caul’, as he further explains: “the process of creating this music was intended to replicate experiences that are difficult to express or navigate through rational process”.

Recorded over two days, the album commences with the ‘The Caul.’ Over 19 minutes long, the track opens with an eerie, yet captivating fusion of unconventional rhythms and drum riffs that sets the tone for the remainder of the record. Similar to their earlier work, ‘Era of Manifestations’, Kid Millions displays his status of drumming to deliver a dispersed beat throughout and the somewhat grimy plays of Bobby are ubiquitous. Jamie Saft, the renowned keyboardist and composer known for his work in the Oscar-nominated documentary ‘Murderball’, joins the album on the remaining tracks, ‘Surfacing’ and ‘A Real Thing You Can Know’.

Initially, albeit a few seconds and slightly sinister, ‘Surfacing’ is evocative of Radiohead’s ‘Daydreaming’ as the black hole formulates before the drums resonate and the keyboard synths echo, creating an inattentive opening with dazed reverberations. Continuing down this path, one cannot help but feel as though they are embarking on a psychic journey, with each inimitable input propelling the listener into a different direction. ‘A Real Thing You Can Know’ depicts the end of the voyage as the drums metrically slam through underlying distortion.

People of the North’s dexterity and improvisation are ineffable in terms of their finished product, but it is the deep and personal experience it evokes that gives sentiment to the listener. Being so visceral and unstructured, some will struggle to connect. However, it is the sensory experiences that the craftsmanship produces which gives ‘The Caul’ purpose. Although opposition may deem the album disjointed as a whole, it is astonishing how it forms somewhat of an unprecedented flow. Quintessentially, ‘The Caul’ captivates the listener into questioning their own desires and own inherent limitations in perceiving and understanding reality.

‘The Caul’ is released on October 14th on Thrill Jockey. You can pre-order the album here.

Words by Matthew Barlow


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