Pontiak is the sound of three brothers, Van (guitar, lead vocals), Lain (drums, vocals) and Jennings Caney (bass, organ, vocals), hailing from the Blue Ridge farm country of Virginia. Described by Julian Cope as "straddling a wide sonic rift valley, with references that stretch from the southern latitudes of Spain's Viaje to the northern majesty of Black Sabbath and Harvey Milk via The Doors", Pontiak certainly make an interesting racket with their second full-length album. Across the 7 relatively lengthy tracks, they fuse the very essence of leftfield folk-rock with tangible elements of stoner, psychedelica and good old Americana. Having recorded the album in a log cabin just north of Charlottesville, the thick wooden walls of the structure has made for a warm and fuzzy analog sound in which sharp trebles soar above plump bass notes whilst achieving an expansive and totally immersive soundscape.
Opener `Shell Skull' makes for the perfect introduction as it rolls pass menacingly like a 70's muscle car slowly cruising the deserted Virginia streets in search of action. Its bass heavy churn, pin-sharp hi-hats and muffled vocals are tinged with a whisky-shot of wavering psychedelica that sounds like groove-laden Comets On Fire meets early Fleetwood Mac. The warmth exuded by the recording process is evident throughout and adds to the mystique and sun-drenched quality of the release which in-turn coveys the bands message more acutely. The atmospheric noodling of the minimalist `Swell' acts as an extended introduction to the scorched Americana-folk of `White Hands' which initially pits Van's labored vocals against the disorientatingly repetitive grind of guitar and bass before negotiating a brief period of psychedelic freedom lodged within the tracks middle section.
Moving further through `Sun on Sun' reveals more textural variety and more surprises. The reverberating stoner-groove that forms the foundation of `White Mice' enthralls with its painfully labored momentum whilst Van's manipulated Guitar melodies soar unhindered into the cosmos. The track suddenly switches halfway through into a swaggering bout of jangly Western folk-rock which grooves with a searing QOTSA-esque passion. It is this groove-laden, and at times, slow-burning folk that really pervades across `Sun on Sun' instead of the swirling psyche-rock monster the opener hinted at. Don't get it twisted though because although the pursuit of stomping psychedelica would have been immensely enjoyable, Pontiak's inimitable sense of `itinerant camp-fire adventure' has its own discreet charm and they have the ability and confidence to execute it with more than a little swagger. From the ethereal cinemascope sweep of the title track to the contemporised and alcohol-drenched intimacy of `Tell Me About' which morphs into a wonderful organ-led medley, the sound will have you transported straight into the ever-stretching terrain of the deep West- even if the closing track `Brush Burned Fast' is very much in the vein of dark and emotive British indie-rock.
`Sun on Sun' showcases a power-rock trio in their prime and reveling in the joys (and traditional sounds) of the region they originate from. From crunching stoner rock grooves to expansive and introspective drifter-rhythms, theirs is the ability to effortlessly move musical direction, usually within a single track. Such arrangements stave off any potential for tedium as songs twist and turn with footloose endeavor and thusly, `Sun on Sun' plays out an exciting encapsulation of the contemporary Americana sound. Excitingly, Pontiak will follow up this release with `Kale', a split LP in conjunction with kindred spirits Arbouretum which is built around a mutual admiration for one John Cale. (KS)