QUICK SPINS: Drowners, Pontiak, Wax Fang
By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 29, 2014 10:00PM
We start in the streets of the city, move onto the mountains and finally off into space with three recent noteworthy releases from Drowners, Pontiac and Wax Fang.
Seeing Drowners at Schubas was one of our favorite shows in 2013. The Welshman-led quartet filled out with pouty New Yorkers served up jagged, punchy bursts of guitar pop that had the half-filled room pressed up against the stage on a Tuesday night. They were playing on the strength of a strong 7" debut but the show proved the band had a whole album's worth of material in them that was just as strong.
Their self-titled debut of twelve songs clocks in at under 30 minutes and you're winded by the album's close. It as if Wire went bubblegum pop. There's a taut economy to the songwriting that gives the music the impression that it flutters your hair as it whisks by, but the melodies are syrupy enough that they linger and settle, grounding the listener in the moment of the song. It's the sound of late night parties and youthful ambition and the thrill of vibing off the city that surrounds you. That's the electric wave that pulses through the music and pulls you without a single cry for help into Drowners.
Pontiak makes exactly the kind of sound you'd expect a band of three brother from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia would make. When Jennings, Van and Lain Carney plug into their amps and thump their drum skins the sound is a buzz of backwoods psychedelia, and your heads fills with beards and moss and wet and sticky thickets of noise. Previous albums have seen Pontiak isn't afraid of playing with song structure—even creating four part untitled movements on 2011's Comecrudos—but on Innocence the brothers play it pretty straightforward.
The collection of songs here has the band's signature heavy sludge draped around the tunes, but theirs a tenderness unveiled by the band's more traditional approach to song structure and melody. You can still rip bongs to this but don't be surprised if you can't lose yourself in the music as it keeps pulling you under its current. There are still moments of stuck-in-jet-engine intensity, "Beings Of The Rarest" is a harrowing crush of volume and fear, but this is countered by the band's acceptance of their gentler side as on the pleasant prairie glazed "Wildfires." Innocence's title suggests the band has found new territory to delve into and while the psychedelic attack remains strong there's a new tenderness to the music that creates something that remain strong on multiple other layers as well.
Pontiak plays at The Hideout on Feb. 22.
THE ASTRONAUT is a three-part space rock opera about a lone astronaut who eventually becomes one with the space around him. At least that's what the press release says, but c'mon, that's basically 2001: A Space Odyssey, right? It would be more appropriate to describe THE ASTRONAUT as an ambitious three-part musical odyssey undertaken by Wax Fang to create something of truly epic proportions. This is classic rock in the truest sense of the word. It's a sprawling, meandering joinery that pushes Wax Fang well beyond the bon dries of comfort into the challenging territory of trying to maintain your attention and their own focus over single rock songs that fill complete LP sides, largely without any human voice to focus on. They accomplish this by mashing genres together—connecting it all with huge guitars and tribal drums—but splicing in swathes of free jazz saxophones, spiraling space noise and whatever else they can stitch into a movement to keep the thing zooming along.
If this all sounds insanely lofty (bordering on the cartoonish) that's because it is, but it's through Wax Fang's absolute belief that THEY CAN DO ALL OF THIS that it actually becomes possible to accomplish without folding under the weight of its own self-importance. This is the part of rock and/or roll that believes music can call to the aliens, that sound can heal rent souls and that the cosmic iOS something that's always at our fingertips.