Album Review: Pontiak - 'Echo Ono'

It would come as a surprise to anyone who has been exposed to the psychedelic fuzz of Pontiak’s music to find out that the band live a very quaint and quiet life. The three brothers Jennings, Van, and Lain Carney all live on a farm together in the Blue Ridge Mountain area of Virginia, tending to their crops and feeding their chickens.

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However, in the midst of this isolated orchard lies a home studio where Pontiak find time to challenge any ideas you have formed of their music based on their lifestyle. The band has managed to release 9 genre defying records over the past 7 years drawing influence from the likes of Led Zeppelin to Mudhoney. However, their latest release demonstrates Pontiak’s new found ability to create a coherent album instead of a collection of songs that give example to their eclectic taste. ‘Echo Ono’ is heavy, loud and far removed from the wistful folk leanings you’d expect from a family band living on a farm together.

As soon as you drop the needle on this record you get an accurate idea of what to expect from the 34 minutes that follow. The overdriven opener, ‘Lions of Least’, perfectly captures the nature of ‘Echo Ono’, or at least the nature of the first half of the album, as the trio deliver a jangly concrete opener which, whilst guitar heavy, leaves room for the relentless rhythm section to take centre stage. ‘The North Coast’ follows, lulling you into a false sense of security as the scattered chords sit comfortably on a solid groove which builds to a surprisingly raucous finale.

‘The Expanding Sky’ provides some respite from the immediacy of the first half of the album as the spacious ballad focuses less on sinister grooves and more on creating an atmosphere as the brothers harmonise, with such uncannily similar voices, beautiful lines such as “Just try again because then I’d miss/What I came to see/ The sweet skin of trees dripping in/ Their own sweat”. Tracks such as ‘Silver Shadow’ and ‘Stay Out, What a Sight’ follow in ‘The Expanding Sky’s footsteps as they each, in their own right, paint pretty pictures against acoustic laced tracks littered with distorted guitar subtleties.  However, ‘Echo Ono’ manages to claw back its urgency towards the end of the album as the almost closer ‘Royal Colours’ builds tension with a repetitive bass line and drum pattern that bleed into a sludgy jam centred around a riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on any Black Sabbath track.

‘Echo Ono’ feels like a fresh start for the brothers as they shed their self-indulgent tendencies, with a more focused and thematic approach, and experiment with the texture and colour of “loud music” to a successful end.