Perth-based act and JOVM mainstays POND — currently, creative mastermind, songwriter and producer Jay Watson (vocals, guitar, keys, drums, synths and bass), who’s also a touring member of fellow Aussie JOVM mainstays Tame Impala; Nicholas Allbook (lead vocals, guitar, keys, bass, flute, slide guitar and drums); Joe Ryan (vocals, guitar, bass, 12 string guitar, slide guitar); Jamie Terry (keys, bass, synths, organs, guitar); and Jamie Ireland (drums, keys) — have released a handful of critically applauded albums that have seen the band’s sound gradually morph into increasingly synth-driven psych pop.
2019’s Tasmania is POND’s most commercially successful and critically applauded album to date, with the album debuting at #15 on the ARIA album charts and #2 on the AIR Independent charts. Conceived as a sort of sister effort to its predecessor, 2017’s The Weather, Tasmania thematically is a dejected and heartbroken meditation on our current sociopolitical moment: planetary discord, water and its dearth in much of the world, machismo, shame, blame, responsibility, love, and the impact of colonial empires. While accurately capturing the restless, anxious dread that most of us have been feeling, the album doesn’t completely wallow in self-pity and fear. Rather, it encourages the listener to celebrate and enjoy the small things of life while we still can.
The Perth-based JOVM mainstays ninth album, the aptly titled 9 was released earlier this year through Spinning Top Music. Produced by the band’s Watson and Ireland, 9 sees the band pushing the sound they’ve established and honed over the past few albums even further, while attempting to recapture anarchic sense of uncertainty. “We sort of gave ourselves permission to make something stuffed this time,” the band’s Nicholas Albrook says in press notes. “We’d settled into a pretty tight routine with the last few albums and wanted to shake a boat with this so we started off with filling a few tape reels with some absolutely heinous improvised sonic babble which, after much sifting, became the first few songs of the album. We also wanted to up the tempo. The last few albums have a neat little mantra or repetitive theme. If I was forced to find something like that in 9, I guess it would be ‘biography’ or ‘observation’ – a lot of the lyrics seem to focus on single people’s lives, or the lives of small moments or small things when you zoom real close up and they reveal something deeper. Stuff like my cheap Chinese slippers, or a soiled teddy bear, or Agnes Martin (not to put them in the same category, although maybe Agnes would’ve appreciated it). In the Rorschach test of re-reading lyrics, one thing that sticks out is a fixation on leaving behind a time of golden optimism and uncynical abandon. We can’t look at ourselves the same anymore, and the world we’ve built provides a scary lense [sic] for viewing our past.”
In the lead up to the album’s release, I managed to write about two of 9‘s previously released singles:
- The Avalon era Roxy Music meets Quiet Storm R&B-like “Toast, a slow-burning and atmospheric song featuring shimmering synth arpeggios, squiggling blasts of guitar, a gorgeous string arrangement, some mellotron and a soaring hook paired with Allbrook’s plaintive vocals. Lyrically, the song addresses the bush fires that devastated much of the band’s homeland and the inequality gap in Allbrook’s Western Australian hometown.
- “Human Touch,” an uptempo, DEVO-like thrasher centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, buzzing bass synths, scorching feedback and distortion, a relentless motorik groove, blown out beats and a rousingly anthemic hook.
9‘s latest single is the slow-burning and sprawling “Take Me Avalon I’m Young.” Centered around an arrangement that features twinkling keys, shimmering synths, a sinuous bass line an alternating pensive verses, soaring strings and an uptempo chorus and bridge with big breakbeats and squiggling guitar bursts and layered vocals, the song is world weary, bummed out and weighted by history — or more precisely, the recognition that history doesn’t repeat, but it certainly alludes, rhymes and references itself to the point that everything feels like deja vu.
“Turns out my medieval history degree is still lingering in the back streets of my mind,” Nicholas Allbrook says of the sprawling single. “The final resting place of Arthur, the mythic isles where we could go for peace and prosperity but which turns out to be an expensive grey grind. A sense of wonder becomes more and more slippery as the years go by. I’m actually really proud of this tune.”
Directed by award-winning filmmaker and creative director Bunny Kinney, the recently released video for “Take Me Avalon I’m Young” was shot in Hastings, UK and follows the band’s Allbrook running, swimming, shooting, fencing and playing basketball — terribly. There’s also some morning yoga in what looks very cold conditions and some freak the fuck out dancing. The visual continues a run of visuals that are fun but kind of bittersweet, as it captures a feeling of things being lost or impossible to recreate.
“This was, no joke, the most fun video I’ve ever been a part of. I spent two days rushing around Hastings with my dear friend Bunny and the lovely George, Joe and James Beatty, running, swimming, shooting, fencing and playing terrible basketball,” Allbrook says of the video. “It was a dream come true. The freezing sunrise yoga was magical in retrospect, even if I was a brat at the time (sorry Bunny). A perfect seaside weekend; I got to play, and Bunny got to create an ode to his favorite sport, the modern pentathlon. Massive thanks to Lewis and Steph for their patience and kindness as my instructors.”