21 Jan 2015

Pond / Man It Feels Like Space Again (album review)

When you're best known for being in a much bigger band, it can be difficult for your own slightly smaller band to step out of the shadow of your previous band. And when the band you're trying to break away from is Tame Impala, maybe the most acclaimed psych band of the last five or ten years, it's a huge task to get away from your roots. But Pond's latest LP, Man It Feels Like Space Again, get out of the towering Tame Impala shadow is exactly what Nick Allbrook has done.

Pond - 'Man It Feels Like Space Again'

In the same pantheon of psychedelia as both their previous work and the work of Tame Impala, Australian band Pond's first release of 2015. Perhaps moving away from all the other previous Pond-work, ...Space Again is probably closest to the label of psychedelic pop, with quite a few of the songs seeming kind of like potential singles, and an alarming amount of them conforming to actual proper song structures. But don't despair, ...Space Again is by no means a pop record, it maintains a lot of the damnright weird sounds, cosmic atmospheres and distorted vocals you've come to expect from psych bands down under.

The album on the whole is a record of contrasts, and a record that walks the tightrope between madness and perfect pop conformity; Zond demonstrates the perfect balance between psyched-out madeness and the perfect pop hit. It has a normal pop structure, with a distorted riff (that sounds a bit like a laser gun) and some vocals that are in-your-face catchy and hard to understand at the same time, but to make it just a tad weirder than your average record, it has some abrasive drum fills that complete the song, and a middle eight that features what I can only presume is an alien screaming.

Slower numbers like Heroin Start, Medicine Hat and Waiting Around For Grace make use of spacey sounds, and huge-sounding atmospheres. They're absolutely cosmic, and wouldn't feel out of place on Lonerism - you can't quite dance to them, but you can kind of waft around and forget your shitty life for four minutes at a time. Medicine Hat in particular sounds like Galaxie 500, revamped for the 21st century and taken on a kaleidoscopic journey to the dark side of the moon. It starts acoustic, after Allbrook's distorted vocals stop, the synths kick in, the guitar lines get more electrified and drenched in reverb, and a bit of tambourine barges its way in, and Medicine Hat begins to kind of ascend, like a celestial (perhaps less ecstatic) version of Golden Hair by Slowdive.

Sitting Up On Our Crane might be a highlight; it's another slower one, but it's just an example of absolute euphoria. Oscillating synthesisers are so immersing for it's six minute duration, and it sounds like this band are on top of the world looking down at the rest of humanity. Sometimes the music of Pond and their obvious consumption of the psychedelics leaves you thinking, 'gosh, I want what he's having', but here you feel so blissed out that nothing in the world can bring you down. ...Space Again is a record for escapists, because it's impossible to not just completely lose yourself in it.

Yes, it does feature the zapping screeching alien guitars, and vocals that sound like Ty Segall's on the Fuzz record, but Man It Feels Like Space Again is so far away from what you'd expect it to be. It's restrained, but also completely psyched out. In it's faster parts, it rivals compatriots King Gizzard and The Wizard Lizard, and at it's cosmic climaxes it beats any experience in the world for pure inter-planetary ecstasy. At the start of this review I mentioned how it might be difficult for Allbrook & co. to step out of the shadow of Tame Impala, but this record is almost gamechanging, and I'll be surprised if any Aussie psych releases come near it in 2015; in other words, it's your move, Tame Impala.

Out: January 26th on Caroline Records
Producer: Lucas Glickman
Pre-order it from Rough Trade to get free entry to their in-store (it's in half-term too)