Pond have become a psych-rock institution by holding their explorative instincts close to heart over the last decade. From the fuzzy squall of 2013’s breakthrough ‘Hobo Rocket’ to the refined, melodic pop tones heard on 2019’s ‘Tasmania’, the Perth gang have always moved forward on their own terms, unfazed by the endless links to world-beating sister band Tame Impala.
They hit upon an even more ruthless revelation going into their ninth album, though, with frontman Nick Allbrook explaining: “After three albums of polished psych-pop, we’ve earned our reward of doing something completely fucked.” They set out to achieve this by adopting methods of their heroes Can, recording jams to tape and then chopping them up to achieve creative anarchy. It’s their biggest leap into the unknown yet.
Bass-heavy opener ‘Song For Agnes’ proves the band weren’t half-arsing their intentions. The operatic, grand track beams with positivity as Allbrook joyously sings: “There’ll be nothing but blue skies from now on, baby”. The pulsating electro anthem flows organically into a cosmic jazz outro, which offers the first glimpse of sonic experimentation on offer.
The dazzling mish-mash of sounds and influences rarely lets up. Party-ready anthem ‘Human Touch’ thrashes with taut energy and a dose of post-pandemic lyricism: “I need some human connection / I need some human touch / Been behind these screens so long.” That’s just before the lively and jubilant funk anchored ‘America’s Cup’ arrives with undercurrents of eighties ’80s synth-wave;a nother highlight comes with ‘Pink Lunettes’, which cuts in with a pounding modulated sequence that’s primed for strobe-lit dancefloors.
It’s a lot to take in, but the compact and well-executed transitions make sense of the chaos. There is some respite, though. ‘Take Me Avalon I’m Young’ packs an understated groove with orchestral backing, while ‘Toast’ shows a more sentimental side to the band; it’s a deeply romantic airing with the more lo-fi, melodic sound underneath starry-eyed lyricism: If the water dries / Like the morning dew / Life’s too short / To be away from you.”
It’s can be a risky game to thrown yourself into so many different styles on a record, let alone within individual songs. Yet – from Bowie to Kurt Cobain and William Burroughs – artists of all kinds have found joy in such surrealist methods of cutting up their work and putting it back together. Having perhaps taken their psych-pop to the edges of what’s possible, Pond deserve this moment. Hopefully, it proves a gateway to a new era for the band that keeps on giving.
Release date: October 1
Record label: Spinning top