Thursday, 24 April 2014

Callas Are Darkly Vertical


This is something else. I'm watching some shitty TV blooper show on silent in the middle of the night, blazed, listening to Greek weirdniks The Callas new album Is It Vertical? (out on Inner Ear Records). Its a warped, chugging menagerie of sounds, melodies, and genres, cannonballing from one extreme to the next without regard for rules, regulations, or your mental health. The insidious nature that these ten tracks growl and grind over these dirgey kraut tensions manifest, damaged and decidedly so, fits in with the nature of the album's producer, Jim Sclavunos (Grinderman). The voice helps with this of course, a lurking Mr Sinister, with the gnarled anger of an girl-gang choir spat from the shadows. Bauhaus, The Raveonettes, Rammstein, Grinderman - this is a relentless, spiked, cerebral menace that can't help but take control of you. Highly recommended at any time - but the middle of the restless night is most apt.


Pick up Is It Vertical? here.

Live And Still Screaming


It's a day of reminiscing, it seems. I got to see Screaming Females the once, when I lived around the corner from the still mourned London venue The Luminaire. With old SM mates Paul and Ani I'm pretty sure. The band was tight and fun, and the diminutive Marissa Paternoster was a blazing presence, her voice booming forth, her face contorting, her guitar wailing. It was a powerhouse performance, one that I was sure would blast them into the stratosphere. It's grungey, punky, proggy in places, silly in others - noise pop with hunting knife serrated edges and dipped in PCP. Over eight years and five records that hasn't changed.


It makes sense then that for me, their live album Live At The Hideout (out now on Don Giovanni Records) is the best thing they have committed to tape. First up, it's recorded by Steve Albini (also recorded their last album, Ugly). Secondly, it's the Screaming Females. They roar through their tracks like it's the last gig on earth, and other than some muted drums (the recording's fault), it is a killer display of raucous, blood curdling rock and roll. King Mike on bass is given some moments to shine, and the tightness of the band is without question. Yet the focus must be on Paternoster - she is a wailing dervish, a devil at the crossroads, and she finally gets the recorded platform that she deserves. Live At The Hideout reaffirms (if any was needed) that this trio are one of the best live acts on the planet - go out and see them pronto!


You can get Live At The Hideout here.

Double A Voyages For Maates Of No Return


I didn’t know who Aa was until I saw them at Woodland in 2011. I was with my mate Andy, and we were debating the current conflagration of auxiliary drummers in indie rock. We had seen some Aussie bands who shall remain nameless whose use of the extra percussion was at best a novelty and at worst a waste of time, poorly masking the basic nature of the band’s music with what was deemed as “tribal rhythms”. Tropical pop? Don’t make me laugh. Yet Aa are a percussion tour de force, continual drumbeats layered over each other until the resultant cacophony is a myopic catharsis, a trembling pummelling. When they brought out more drums onto the floor, I was swept up in the theatrics, commandeering one to join in myself. Such audience participation can become a nightmare, but like the Boardrum experience, Aa kept everything loose yet precise, with every “drummer” attuned to their worldview. It was a killer show and showed that there are a few bands out there where more than one drumkit isn’t just warranted yet essential.

But after their great 2011 release mAate (itself a combination of their 2007 debut GAame and their Glossy EP from 2009), I hadn’t kept track of the Brooklyn collective. Now Northern Spy Records has released their new album, VoyAager, and…well, I don't know. It goes without saying that change is good in the world of music, but also without saying that change for change's sake is bullshit at best. I'm not saying that Aa are doing something wrong with mixing things up, but the more Battles-esque tracks here (I'm talking Tyondai Braxton-era Battles too, just listen to 'Drug Mom') bewilder me more than energise. The paring back of older track 'Glossy' does give a sense of distilled acidity, yet the elongated tension was what brought this band into their element. The kaleidoscopic hallucinogens were part and parcel to Aa's MO, I know, but it just all seems too saccharine. Still, there are ominous freaks like 'Pug Pit' to look forward to.

Maybe I'm the one who's changed. I bet these tracks kill live, which to be honest is the only way to experience em. Istill have their drumsticks at home too, so we're still mAates.


Grab VoyAager here.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Bleeding Is Reading


Changing names can throw you, but with Bleeding Rainbow there was always something lingering at the corners of the self-consciousness. The Philly four-piece used to be Reading Rainbow you see, named after the kiddies' show. The name shift comes from connotations from being named after the kiddies' show - and the fact Carrie Brownstein poo-pooed the name. It also happened at the tail end of 2011, so this ain't some new thing, but the band as RR hold a special place in my heart - I've been a fan since 2010, and their Prism Eyes LP of that year kept me warm on what was a weird time in my life, in Paris no less (read a little here...) The band as BR haven't not grabbed me - they are still the same core group - but it's taken until Interrupt (out now on Kanine) for me to slip back into their slipstream. The Superchunk comparisons are warranted, as is Sleater-Kinney - 'Out Of Line' for me could have been cut from that band's final LP The Woods. In fact the band has really toughened up in the past few years - even taking a Cloud Nothings-like angular stance on 'Images'. But overall Bleeding Rainbow are just a great guitar punk band with quirky scrap-pop sensibilities that will always take me back to my solo malaise in Paris, a weird yet grittily wondrous place.


Get Interrupt here.


Friday, 18 April 2014

Friday Cover Up - Finding Marty's Rockets In Doom Town


I'm a pretty big fan of Martin Phillips. Not the Welsh darts player, although I can understand the confusion. No, the Martin Phillips who fronts peerless Auckland noise rock band God Bows To Math; who writes his own blog, Hell Is Now Love; who is an all round rad dude. He also puts things out under the blog moniker, having been responsible for putting out records from The DHDFDs, Proton Beast and El Alamein. The reason Phillips started the label though was to give a physical release to fellow Auckland band Lost Rockets, and again he is doing them a solid, putting out this 7” single ‘Hundred Year Cough’ to precede their debut LP.

It’s pretty great as you’d imagine – and on this Good Friday, they have an excellent cover on the B-side – none other than Wipers special ‘Doom Town’. I have to say (and this feels sacrilegious, even to me) that the single is stronger than the cover. I don’t know if that means Lost Rockets kill it, or that I'm a bad person. Either way, get into this – can’t wait to hear what the album sounds like later this year… Thanks Martin!


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Bring On The Easterfaust


The Easter madness is upon us. But then Easter started back in February. Super rad psychoids The Cosmic Dead have epic album Easterfaust (out through Sound Of Cobra) in their arsenal and aren't afraid to use it. This will fry you. And if you're already fried...cosmic kosmiche awaits.

Grab this stellar record here.



Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Pining For The Harshest Of Blackouts


Remember No Anchor? The brutalist Brisbane trio who reckon they aren't together much anymore? Donnie Miller records music and is in Sonic Masala-affiliated shoegaze band Roku Music; Alex Gillies cuts wood and is in metal throwbacks Greig; and Ian Rogers elocutes about music and plays in Shaking Hell. But Ian isn't done with flaying his vocal chords or our eardrums, as new side project Black Pines (joined by Rational Academy alum and the Pale Earth duke himself, Ben Thompson) attests. In the most obvious move yet from excellent outre outsider label Wood & Wire will take any risk, they have put out Harsh Out, six tracks of psych - but not as you know it. The duo want to scrape the underbelly of the 60s psychedelic dream with rusty knives, before diving straight in and letting the intestinal truth shower down. With comparisons of Bardo Pond, Boris, Swans and Unsane (circa 89-92) bandied about, you know that this is atonal obliteration of the most delicious kind. The red-eyed tint of a man driven insane by demons both without and within; swastikas etched through the skin, through sinew, through bone; nightmares real in Giallo Technicolour, an ecstatic mess, before spiralling into a pastiche of Korine-helmed dirt and Noe-driven madness. All done without preamble, without compromise, without apology. If you thought The Golden Bridge saw an upswing in Ian's temperament, with tongue embedded in cheek, then Black Pines is here to irradiate those memories beyond reproach.


As always, Wood & Wire are offering Harsh Out as a free download here. Let's hope there is some sort of physical release of this soon, yeah?

Wrecking The City Again


Melbourne's Hotel Wrecking City Traders are back! Well they haven't actually been dormant, but they finally have their new LP Ikiryo (out through the band's Bro Fidelity label) ready to thrash out to the world, a mere six years (?!) after Black Yolk blasted the doors off. Recorded in two days in January, and the tight timeline fits with the leaner, more focused delivery of the five songs on display here. Opener 'Breath' is a power behemoth, holding down some straight-up metal riffs before launching forth like a tightly coiled serpent at the jugular, before dissolving into a doom-lite crawl that shadows Pelican at their most languid. It's these tonal shifts at almost a nanosecond's notice that is the most obvious change up in the duo's arsenal - they are more melodic and in tune with each other's playing due to their tireless touring and shows in Japan. 'Riley' is a sinuous beast that surreptitiously moves into Toby's repetitive groove, the alternations coming from Ben's rolls and fills. 'Dance The Hempen Jig' feels the most like old HWCT (not that anything on Ikiryo is far from the wellspring of the band's oeuvre), albeit in a concise, calibrated form, before the album closes with the darkness of 'Tetryl' and the sprawling title track taking us into the sinister outer spaces. Welcome back, boys.


Get Ikiryo here.

American Football Replay


I have only been a fan of the self-titled debut record from Chicago trio American Football for the past couple of years. The fact that it is the band's only full-length release heightens the appeal; the fact that they barely played any shows before disbanding piques the interest further; the fact that Mike Kinsella went on to play in another band with only one release (up until last month), Owls, and his brother Tim formed Joan Of Arc, makes the short-lived fire that much more fervent. Now fifteen years on from its initial release in 1999, Polyvinyl has seen fit to reissue American Football - and I for one am so excited about the prospect of having this on vinyl for the first time. Never heard of it? Maybe not. But if you are a fan of Explosions In The Sky or other introspective, gossamer-knitted, emotive instrumental bands (see most of Temporary Residence's early roster), then you have tasted their influence. They aren't entirely devoid of lyrics though - yet on tracks like opener 'Never Meant' they perfectly encapsulate the tone and timbre of the music itself, playing out as a true complement rather than a counterpoint or embellishment. But what makes American Football such a great record is the emotional resonance that emanates from its very pores, something that very few bands (excepting the aforementioned Explosions...) can evoke. It for me is a true, deserved holder of the term timeless.


You can pre-order American Football here - it's out May 20. The deluxe edition includes an album's worth of rare live recordings, demos, and practice sessions (in which the group rehearsed material they never recorded elsewhere) to complement the original record. Beautifully expanded packaging incorporates new
photographs from Chris Strong along with lyrics, detailed liner notes written by the band, and never-before-seen band pictures. The below unreleased track is 'The 7s', which comes from a 1997 live recording. IT WAS THE FIRST SONG THEY EVER WROTE. It was the set closer until they wrote my favourite track (neck and neck with 'Honestly'), 'Stay Home'. They discarded this - most bands will never write something this good in their lives. Incredible.



Sunday, 13 April 2014

Guilty Of Nothing


We put out Roku Music as our first label release, so you know that Sonic Masala is all about good quality shoegaze. Of course in this day and age there are so many variations that it's hard to discern the good, the bad and the ugly - you get enough of the last one and you are likely to turn off from all the noise (bless me Kevin for my blasphemous tongue...) Philly's Nothing certainly use some of the tropes emblematic of shoegaze, but there is definitely a lot more going on here - this band has their roots as entrenched in early hardcore as they do in 80s English midlands. This is apparent on their excellent record Guilty of Everything.  The vocals remain submerged in the miasmic swirling noise on display, but its the dynamic at play here that makes this a different beast altogether. It comes down to the calm and quiet that nestles amongst the bluster – a sonorous quality permeates tracks like 'Hymn To The Pillory', 'Endlessly' and 'Dig' allowing the noise to seep smoothly into the pores of your being. There’s a familiarity in the wavelength-like undulations of Guilty Of Everything, but that makes it even more arresting. A seriously good release - and if I hadn't put out the best shoegaze album of 2014, then this would surely be it...


Guilty Of Everything is out through Relapse now - get it here.

Howlin' Banana Raises Maddie's Kaviar Special To The Skies...


A French label called Howlin Banana, pushing garage rock? Well, I've heard of weirder things. The record crew have some great releases there, and Ill trawl through them over the next few weeks. The two I've been digging though have been from Parisian garage pop slackers Volage and Loose Rennes natives Kaviar Special.


Volage have crammed a lot of vibrating old-school tunes into one small release with their Maddie 10" EP. Favourite track: 'Many Hopes'. But the psychedelic flower pop with a grungey edge of 'Im A Fool' and 'Heart Healing (Take 1)' is a lot of fun, whilst 'Bob Is Alive' is tub thumping from the darkest recesses of a cartoonish Hell, with Volage stripped of graces, airs and souls as they play the support slot for the Cramps. Love this, even if it proves a little schizophrenic. But that's what EPs are for. Bring on the album.



Kaviar Special are up to that stage, bringing out their self-titled LP (also on Azbin Records), and it's some raucous, stupid garage rock fun. I really enjoy this kind of music when out on the booze, and these guys could easily fuel my night. It's pretty straight up in its offerings - songs don't tend to stick out as much, so when one does (like 'Ptit Cul') it feels like it's something probably less special than you think. That sounds like a diss, and it isn't meant to be - these is consistent breakneck fare that is young, dumb and full of...poison cake? The LP is sold out as far as I can tell, which is very unfortunate for most - but I have one, so that's all that matters...



Saturday, 12 April 2014

Hits From The Box #83 - Still Kickin'


It was my Dad's 60th on Thursday. I'm currently at Hervey Bay in an apartment overlooking the ocean, drinking a beer. Seems weird that I'm benefiting from Dad's birthday - but then again I guess I am every day (awwww...) He's having a lie down now, so I'm here with a cool brew and an hour to kill. Sounds like it's time to trawl through the ever expanding inbox...


Canada's Geyser have a tasty 12" EP out which starts out with a killer angular garage rock track ('Feel It All Day'), pare it back with a slightly darker meander through the paint cans and charlatans ('Copper Wish') before launch into a lecherous lurch through the B-side ('Jocko', 'Junkie'). The bottom end bass is the true centrifugal force here, propelling everything forward with a cocky jaunt that feels almost comical in the quieter moments, yet is totally vindicated when everything explodes/implodes. And the vocals go from crooning, to maniacal screaming, to carnivalesque chanting of "junkies" like they are a sideshow attraction -which they pretty much are. Good stuff.




I wasn't sure what to expect when I threw on Two, the new album from Chicago band Owls. The cover art is all kinds of ridiculous (a battered, blood smeared Noel Gallagher is kinda funny though). But as soon as the chugging guitar and hypnotic trance combine on killer opening track 'Four Weeks Of Art...' (all songs end with ellipses...), I knew I was a winner. I had no idea that Owls were a band some ten years or more ago, let alone that it included Tim Kinsella of Joan Of Arc. Makes sense though - Two is an album of constant contradiction - its an angular rock album that refuses to rock out; its an amiable pop record that refuses to be anything by cryptic; it's an accessible guitar band that continues to confound with hiccupping breaks and half-turns; Kinsella's lyrics are at once personable and impenetrable. Basically, it's Two. And I'm happy with that.






Pittsburgh lurkers Shaky Shrines have this five track EP Hocus Bogus coming out very soon, and it's a slick piece o work, wavering between organ-fuelled garage punk, Rocket From The Crypt style ('Shower Curtain'), to more windows-down-driving-through-the-night-with-a-sultry-mistress-and-blazed-on-high-quality-stimulants grooves ('Hypnotic Eyes', 'Beyond The Door') and something that brings them together in the rocking, psych tinged 'Black SUV' and 'White Work Van'. Nice.

Shaky Shrines - Hypnotic Eyes Visualizer from Justin A Nixon on Vimeo.


Back to Canada now (Toronto to be exact) to dirty everything right up with Soupcans. These degenerates wail about in crude oil and caviar, spit firewater into baby's eyes, tear the habits of nuns and choke strippers with them - its real bottom of the barrel kind of misanthropism. And as Parasite Brain attests, it's also fucking amazing. This is too hardcore to be hardcore - it's the theme tune of a disintegrating serial sodomizer. And again, I'm totally fine with that. Ill even pick up the cheque. Great, evil stuff.



Here's a nice swatch of dream pop from Melbourne courtesy of Vulpix. His Swarms Ep is a sonorous sweep of reverb stasis, ebbing and flowing from one languid memory to another in an opaque fog. It's like a lot of other dreampop bedroom wanderers then? No - the sound is crystalline, there is personality climbing out from behind the subconscious curtain of warbled guitar, there is even a little bit of humour. A confident tip of the hat to his forebears - now let's see what Vulpix brings us next.




Let's finish back in Chicago tonight with the swirling squall of The Thons. This band kinda remind me of The Thermals, if they were actually The Intelligence. Which means they are so so rad. I only have Real Raw Rock, but their newer record Thirty Foot Snake is also out - and I can't imagine it straying far from the path of this killer record. This has been a stellar Hits From The Box, but I think I'm ending with the high here. Slightly unhinged, slightly relentless, totally addictive. Get it here. Listen to BOTH ALBUMS below!




Happy Saturday everyone!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Warming A Widow With(out) Child


Let's finish the evening with some squalling post-punk from Manchester, shall we? Warm Widow's sophomore LP Childless is, in my mind at least, somewhat scruffier, louder, more unhinged than their scruffy, loud, unhinged debut Widower. That doesn't make sense I hear you shout - Widower had much lower production values, and you could just about taste the powder of ground calcium as they gnashed their teeth! And I do love that about any release - but it takes a certain level of ingenuity to instill all of that into a glossier product, like infusing a red velvet cupcake with anthrax (who eats cupcakes anyway???) Its that insidious, coruscating guitar that mines deep into your cerebral vortex. The rhythm section hold everything together with nailed-down tenacity - its an exercise in meticulous aggravation, only letting the leash go when all hope is lost. Childless is made to be played louder than your speakers can go.


Childless is out now - get it here.


Circular Songs

(Song by Dave Kan)
This time last week Sonic Masala combined with Bedroom Suck Records to present the first solo show in Brisbane for Ela Stiles (Songs, Bushwalking) - the above photo is from that performance. Stiles has an incredible presence which comes down to her haunting, commanding voice. It filled out the venue (formerly The Healer, currently Electric Playground, soon to be The Brightside) and, although she was accompanied with her guitar for most songs, it was this that marked the performance as something special.

This is ever more evident from the genetics of her debut solo record, out soon on Bedroom Suck. The album is an a cappela tour de force, drawing together her looped voice to become a haunting choral mantra, taking in Eastern stylings and drone aesthetics to form a soundscape of undulating melodicism, the soundtrack of a atmospheric meditation into the Self, channelling the losses of the world. The first half of the record is filled with songs that barely reach one minute in length (in fact only two, 'kumbh Mela' and 'Untitled Man', of the six tracks on the A side reach that milestone); whilst the B side is a ten minute drone transition based solely, again, on Stiles' voice, the sound of howling wind nearby immediately evoking a frozen arctic tundra, lost in the whiteout. It's a bewitching release from a woman who continue to beguile with each successive musical experimentation.


Pre-order Ela Stiles here.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Gentlemen Prefer Sex Tapes

(Photo by Glen Schenau)
Boy oh boy. I feel aggrieved, embarrassed, dirty and fucking excited whenever I put on Sex Tape, the record that Melbourne miscreants Gentlemen put out through Homeless Records. I've only had it since Sunday - it's just about sold out (there were two copies left at Collectors Corner in the Melbourne CBD, not sure if there are many more). Its the sort of atonal noise rock that the term pigfuck was invented for. Sure, there isn't inherent melodicism being skewered or insanely tight engine room in the muck and the mire here, but there is plenty of abrasive yowls, riffs, smashed drums and stalker-with-dead-eyes basslines here to give a corpse an erection. Matt Korvette over at Yellow Green Red took umbrage to the BDSM imagery the band take on with the cover art - and I get his point - but this is the kind of noise that is destined to dwell in the seventh level of Satan's bowel (and what his band Pissed Jeans are basically known to do). 'Military Style Massage' - now if you are resistant to that bludgeoning, we ain't friends, pure and simple. And to be honest there are some serious Melbourne bands that are fist deep in this corrosive sound - personally, I think it's brilliant. Listen to 'Perry' and bring on the pig.


On Barbiturates Like A Boss


I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sad that Barbiturates aren't based in Brisbane anymore. Roland Hlavka, guitarist of another great local band Cobwebbs, has manhandled his bedroom project from a warped space noodling odyssey into an even more warped benzo trip to the dark side of the adenoidal from the bottom of the ocean. With each release Barbiturates becomes a more fitting moniker. Case in point: Boss, his latest cassette through Long Gone Records. Hlavka hides his drawl under enough reverb and distortion to shred all words from his lips, and the insidious insistence that opener 'Weight To Touch' emanates makes it sound like disturbed black-clad synth mavens Multiple Man are strapping guitars. But Boss is decidedly weirder than that - take the warbling, plodding leviathan that is 'Oxygen Free', or the turbulent nightmare that is 'Beware'. Barbiturates takes an idea and seeps into the earth with it; a parallel universe beyond the snow of the dead television, happily trapped within lysergic coffins, a boss of his own domain.


You can get Boss here. If you live in Melbourne you can catch Barbiturates play with Spermaids at the Catfish in Fitzroy on Monday. I walked past there on Sunday. That's all I know about the place.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Friday Cover Up - Thanking Courtney For Bein' Around

Had to end the week off with this - my "love" Courtney Barnett, covering some Dando. ENJOY!

Redeeming The Stickmen


The Tasmanian music scene has always mirrored the way us mainland Aussies treat the Apple Islers – as outsiders, bereft of this country in most respects, left to their own devices. I love Tasmania – its possibly the most beautiful place in Australia. This geographical ostracism is what allows this beauty to remain untouched – but is also why those persistent inter-family rumours also persist. Its nasty and untrue (I assume).

But being ostracised and forced into inbreeding does bring about great dividends (stay with me…) Because of this ostracism, both geographically and musically, the Tasmanian musical community was left to fester and ferment, scrounging together the smallest scraps of sonic alleviation and epiphany to carve out whatever they could. Thus the music that came out of Hobart in the late 90s and early 2000s is acrid, warped, coruscated – and utterly mesmeric. Most people will know about The Nation Blue and their rise from this bastion of musical barbarity, but there were many bands strangling instruments and concepts with blue-veined glee. (If you haven’t listened to Sea Scouts, for example, do yourself a favour and sort that out RIGHT NOW).

Another of these young bands doing incredible things within this nebulous musical landscape was The Stickmen. Their music was instantly recognisable yet deliberately obfuscated the accepted norm – taking the supposed trappings of post-punk and hewing out of them a nervy, chaotic dynamism that was instantly recognisable. Plenty of likeminded bands exist now that mirror this aesthetic, but the Stickmen were one of a unique few bands that truly challenged any form of sonic norm. And the inclusion of turntables is probably the only time I can think of where it belongs in rock music. It’s a bizarre concept, but when you hear the skittish scratches on songs like the excellent ‘Who Said’, it is a stroke of ardent genius. And on songs like ‘Night’, Aldous Kelly could stand up alongside the greats of the post-punk beginners, his wail as impassioned, as cathartic, as confronting.

 The Stickmen brought out two albums only – 1998’s self-titled debut, and Man Made Stars the following year. And that was it – this combustible ball finally imploded. But they never truly left the ether of the aggravated Australian musical fringes, and when The Drones convinced the band to reform for last year’s ATP Melbourne, they were an unbelievable surprise package for most – myself included. Tom Lyngcoln of The Nation Blue insisted I catch their set – and I am forever in his debt. Whilst the Per Purposes and indeed The Drones’ of the world are a breathtaking menagerie of energy and unease, it was somehow more engrossing to see The Stickmen easily in command of their raw, rancid realm.

Now the great Melbourne imprint Homeless Records have released both of these “lost” albums on 12” vinyl. If you don’t partake in this frontier freneticism, you have no right walking this earth. Tap in to something inherently visceral, a fission of collective fidgeting energies, and enjoy.



Thursday, 3 April 2014

Sunbathing With Animals On The Courts


I don't have much time, I'm heading into the city to eat Thai, see Harmony, and drink with Harmony et al on my back deck - rough life. Made so much sweeter when I hear the new Parquet Courts song. It's goddamn brilliant. Listen to that drum kit - he is playing the same beat like his life depends on it. Riffs, rants, rad. Sunbathing Animal the album is out in June - can not WAIT.


Innocence WAAAAAAAAAAASTEEEEEEEEEEEEED


I have made no bones about my immense for the fried psych squalls that inventive brothers Carney develop as Pontiak. Yet even I was surprised by the brevity of the tracks that litter Innocence, their latest album on Thrill Jockey. I'm not complaining - one of my all-time favourite tracks of last year was the title track, all two minutes and 17 seconds of it, and it came out at the tail end of the year. Every time I hear the crunch, the scree, the wails, the moans, the groove - fuck everything else, I'm out the door and gone to lose myself. The rest of the album doesn't entirely live up to such a balltearer of an opening, but with the sludgy groove of 'Lake Lustre Rush', the insistent crunch driving forth 'Ghosts', the fat 'Sabotage' bass and fuzzed out and deep Black Sabbath riffs of 'Surrounded By Diamonds' - there is just so much blasted rock here to enjoy.



There has been a bit of stick thrown at Innocence though, mainly reserved for a triptych of songs in the middle third - 'It's The Greatest', 'Noble Heads' and 'Wildfires'. I must say that having these slower tracks after the hectic opening is a bit strange - on first listen. But after a while it's like John Cusack says on High Fidelity - you have to take it down a notch, you don't want to blow your wad too early. And these tracks are great - an organ-fuelled malaise floods the first track here, before becoming an arms outstretched ode to Jason Molina at his most Neil Young/Crazy Horse; 'Noble Heads' is actually a sonorous country ballad that resonates the more it gets played. 'Wildfires' is quite sedate, and this is where I think this is my love of the band that allows me to rise above the lull. Those crashing cymbals and brotherly harmonies, though!


Pontiak - Wildfires from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

Innocence roars out of town after this on a brace of pretty killer tracks, especially closer 'We've Got It Wrong', what I can't help but think that I've actually experience the truest example of an album that displays the band's personalities. There is a ruggedness, a playfulness, an innocence that comes from being in a close-knit group, heightened all the more by the fact that the trio are kin. And whilst the next album might see them back to their brilliantly experimental full-bore psych ways, Innocence stands as an album that shows that Pontiak can do pretty much whatever they want and turn it into gold.


This goes without saying - y'all should be picking up Innocence right this minute.