Aussie psych rockers Pond shift outside the shadows of contemporaries with their newest jam
No longer merely the younger sibling of fellow Western Australian psych project Tame Imapla, Pond are well and truly their own entity. The release of Frond in 2010 helped to re-affirm the band as more than just a side-project or different outlet for members, and since, they’ve gone on to become one of the most celebrated and key players in today’s burgeoning Australian psych revival. They’ve got a prolificacy that makes Frank Zappa seem like My Bloody Valentine, and with new album Man, It Feels Like Space Again, Pond have churned out another modern psych classic.
Some of the busiest musicians around, central members Nick Allbrook, Jay Watson and Joe Ryan are releasing their fourth album in six years under the Pond moniker and travelling to play gigs and festivals all over the world - all whilst simultaneously performing and writing in other bands and as solo artists. Apparently the group of them only spent two weeks on this one, making the captivating amalgam of sonics present, both fluid and abrasive, even more impressive.
They’re lurid, flamboyant, and interestingly, noticeably dissimilar to the sounds on previous releases. Historically each Pond album seems to embody a different set of influences, and again it appears the direction has shifted from 2013’s Hobo Rocket. There’s a peculiar 80s influenced electronic feel present, right from the languid opening chords of “Waiting Around For Grace” to the vociferous climax and tranquil comedown of the title track and album closer.
From a journalistic perspective, the extensive possibilities for different portmanteaus or creative genre-mashing in reference to which this sound sits are a dream. Space glam. Cock prog. Electro jam. Any would be adequate, but really the most apt description is it’s just the sound of a bunch of friends having fun with one another. The camaraderie between band members is palpable, adding an exuberant extra dimension to the songs that cannot be created by the addition of further effects or layers.
Don’t let this electronic metamorphosis fool you, as though markedly different on an auditory level, it’s still typical Pond: carefree and euphoric with a tinge of Queen-esque pop flair. Synths have taken the lead from the guitars, shunted out stage left, combining with ethereal vocals, groovy basslines and hypnotic, computerised drum beats to evoke a futuristic daydream where reverb, phaser and digitalism reign supreme.
The epic droning synths of “Sitting Up On Our Crane”, soaring on up into the stars, could easily help soundtrack the next Hollywood blockbuster, while the ephemeral electronic flutters which fill the majority of the title track’s eight minutes breeze over the listener like a gentle sea wind. The quirky “Zond” sounds a little like the B-52s under the influence of psychedelics, and lead single “Elvis’ Flaming Star”, minus the extreme volatility and controversy, evokes some of the lo-fi eccentricity currently being churned out by likes of Ariel Pink.
Though as striking, unique and far removed as the sounds on Man might be, it is its wonderful pop sensibility and songwriting that really stands out. The album’s exceptionally gratifying cadences and melodies strike all the right fuzzy power chords, lifting you up, bringing you down and spinning you round to place you right at the epicentre of the band’s fresh direction. Though that’s not to say there aren’t any classic Pond style jams, with “Outside is the Right Side” (approximating a deformed, reverb laden P-funk groove) sliding back and forth between directions new and old like the foot on the wah pedal that drives the track along.
Given their extremely busy schedules, perpetual evolution and boundless energy, it would be fair to say Pond are one of the most dynamic bands around in any genre, certainly in Australia. The most impressive aspect of the band though is the fact despite all this, they manage to stay extremely consistent in the music they release. Though we mightn’t see much more similar material from this new direction, Man, It Feels Like Space Again is yet another crowning achievement for the group, and I for one can’t wait to see what kind of tripped out, oddball psychedelia they bring us next.