I’m writing this review three months before the release of 'Sea Voids', the fourth Pontiak full-length, and since then these words will have been sitting on the shelf; a snapshot tapestry stuffed into the blunderbuss maw that is The Internet. How damp is it back there? Will the powder still ignite? Accuracy? Schmaccuracy…
As I was standing like a paralysed wave in front of my turntable listening to the whirlpool-roaring, oak-plank-creaking of this album's vortex of a title track, a few things occurred to me:
Where will I be when this review gets published?
Will I still be alive? (perish the thought)
Will I have done something irrevocable?
How many nautical similes can I get away with here? (argghh! a barrel full!)
I also decided that I couldn’t hold off reviewing it any longer, because it made me so excited that I had already started making notes about Shot in the Alarm, which arrives towards the end of side A. Time is of the essence, and notes sound stupid after an hour on the page:
Like ten Link Wray’s in zero gravity
Like a space-shuttle sized kettle boiling in a disused factory
Unique but not!
Awful aren’t they? And it’s only been thirty minutes, at most, so here I am all jittery and tip-tapping along to Pontiak. I want to come back to “unique but not!” later on, but for now let me elaborate on the other two. Pontiak know about the space between notes. They know how to use it, and not just use it to make you think that your record player is fucked (although my record player actually was fucked last week, and I thought it was them). On the wet squelching that is Feeding they disappear down stage doors and reappear right by your ear just when you think the curtains are falling.
Okay, they might not know, they might just think it’s funny. Three hairy brothers yanking the rug from under the footsies of a naked oriental cats…
The opening chug-a-lug is called Suzerain (which sounds to me like the name of some old Oracle woman who lives in, oh I don’t know, a Pirates Cave), it lures you in with some feedback all chopped up and skittery. Punch in here, punch out there, punch in here, punch out there. Then we have a downtuned descent through some purple chordage that might make you think of Corrupted, then some Zep-Ness Monster riffing (Lain Carney, the drummer, is shining on this record. Here he’s going right to left over the kit like an Olympic hurdler. On The Spiritual Nurse he goes all Ganesh and polylimbistic on us).
Sea Voids is the sound of a band who are galloping headlong into sound, theirs and others, and there’s little time for observing boundaries. Or: this is a good rock ‘n’ roll record that wants to do lots of different things, and nothing more.
One thing that’s been striking me about these nine songs is that Jennings (bass) and Van (guitar) seem to have been firing their welders from the same gas bottle, if you know what I mean. Compared with long players Maker and 2007’s Sun on Sun, they are teaming up more often, flooding the same channels, often in the same super-low frequency range. There are exceptions here of course. On One Ton One Kilo Van let’s rip for a good while, reaching at least the twelfth fret, with his guitar sounding much like it did on Honey for those that’s familiar with that track: a flogging two dead donkeys + delay sort of sound.
Donkeys referring to amplifiers, if my ears don’t deceive me.
But they’re often blurring the lines between them. I also can’t tell who is singing anymore, is it Jennings or is it Van on the acoustic shanty crooning of Life and Coral?
I’m getting the feeling that I should be finishing this and corking the barrel. Besides another brief and fine acoustic outing on It’s the Life I’ll say a little more about the title track, before the dimming of the day. It’s much the same sort of event as Maker’s instrumental thirteen minute namesake (which I listen to rather frequently), but it’s half as long. It leaves me feeling like I have been driving immensely fast towards an abyss I was not aware of, stopping to teeter precariously on the edge by chance. Or maybe it’s the sound of falling. It’s heavy, and it’s fuelling all sorts of illuminations.