The rise of the machines
In a 1969 PBS Critique post-performance interview, Jim Morrison of The Doors was asked about the future of music. His answer was “I can envision maybe one person with a lot of machines, tapes and electronic setups, singing or speaking and using machines.” It is 2019 now, and here we are.
For those that do not know, Pond is part of the close-knit Perth, Western Australia scene that spawned, now mainstream group, Tame Impala who has been churning out critically-acclaimed records for the last decade. Some members of Tame Impala are contributing members for Pond, and Jay Watson plays as a current member for both bands. Pond’s eighth studio album, Tasmania, is neo-psychedelia with funk highlights galore, and there is a lot of sounds to unpack in it. This is the kind of record that demands the listener kick back and turn up the volume.
From the get-go, the listener knows they are about to go on a wild musical ride as the intro in “Daisy” ramps up its ambient sounds. Suddenly, it shape-shifts into a funky jam that showcases the tight rhythm section of the group, who happens to stand out throughout the entire record. However, after the bombastic opening track is over, all bets are off as the album begins to unravel disconcertingly.
In the record’s second track, “Sixteen Days,” the band is loose and fun while delivering an infectious synth groove that pairs beautifully with Nick Allbrook’s raspy yet clear vocals. The album’s title song and the following track, “The Boys Are Killing Me,” are velvety smooth with intrepid high-treble basslines, solid groove beats and psych-soaked guitar licks that few bodies could resist moving to. But then the party is over, and Tasmania shows its bipolar personality.
Tracks five to ten all feature an insane amount of processed effects that distract from the music and, at times, can even make the listener forget they are listening to music at all. The shift in direction is evident in “Shame,” in which at one point all kinds of diverse sounds go off as Allbrook is barely singing at all, almost speaking. In the album’s final track, Allbrook’s vocals are so excessively processed that even the most acute listener would have a hard time trying to make out the lyrics. Unfortunately, it’s a disappointing end to the album.
For all the fun that the first half of the record gifts, the remainder part of the album is worrisome because bands like Pond and Tame Impala are the face of modern indie rock. After all, Tame Impala is headlining Coachella this year and will arrive there as ambassadors for the genre. Perhaps Morrison’s prophetic future has finally come as sound machines replace the instrumental clarity of psych rock songs like Pink Floyd’s “Marooned,” which showed that a track could zone out the listener while still making each instrument recognizable.
For fans of Pond, Tasmania will be considered another top-notch entry, but for those who remember a different time in music and those who remember the birth of indie rock, in particular, this record may raise some questions.