Friday, July 17, 2009

FOA OMG!!1!: Pontiak

I'm not usually one for stoner-sludge-type guitar rock, but man, is Virginia's Pontiak an exception. I missed them when they did an in-store at Criminal Records during Bonnaroo (exasperated sigh), but I've been spinning their April Thrill Jockey release Maker since then anyway. I caught wind of the band when they passed through Atlanta last year after releasing Sun on Sun (these guys record quickly). The three Carney brothers hail from the Blue Ridge, and can perhaps thank their familial relationship for the seamlessness with which they perform and record. Live, they were a positive force, dark and menacing but somehow buoyant and bright, too. Recorded, listening to Pontiak feels like walking into a cave on a hot, sunny day. You're a little blinded, but it's cool in here, and somehow the sheer depth of it relaxes.

Maker is almost minimalist. Though vocals do play an important role in the album, they're few and far between. That's because for Pontiak, less is more. Lead-off "Laywayed" stops abruptly after the intro and inspires that kind of everyone-inhales-at-once tension bands sometimes employ live. Some tracks, like "Wax Worship," begin or end with lengthy sound collages--they drone--and concentrate more on waves and textures than any pop sensibilities. "Wax Worship"'s final minutes feature vocals reminiscent of Gregorian chants or some type of cult choir situation. You can almost hear the creepy ceremonial hooded robes.

"Seminal Shining," one of Maker's shortest track, departs from all of this. It's wholly and hypnotically different, utilizing Spanish-style guitar and low vocals throughout the length of the song. Maybe a technique of drone and ambient music comes through here; it's another example of the effectiveness yielded by lulling an audience into a certain repetitive framework before startlingly changing style or key. I like it.

Give 'em a listen:

[MP3] Pontiak - "Wax Worship"

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