Always willing to try their hand at being a little bit left of centre, over the past decade Pond has created their own comfortable absurdist niche in the psych-rock genre in the Australian music scene. Generally treading that fine line between chaotic incoherence and a controlled mastery of music, the West Australian band are back with their ninth album, the aptly titled 9. Coming two years after 2019’s psych-pop Tasmania, Pond has continued with the trend of indulging in spaced-out psychedelia and raggedness while leaning into moments of disco and jazz.
Crafting the album on the back of some truly cooked jam sessions, 9 was developed by piecing together the offcuts from these jam sessions into something that resembled what could be described as a song. The improvisation of these sessions, while at the time done as an exercise of fun, has led Pond into creating one of, if not, their best releases. Taking pride in being able to create and release music that is divisive and not for everyone, frontman Nick Allbrook has well and truly tried to create division on 9, and depending on how you look at it, has succeeded (I’ll give you a hint: the album is different, but you’ll like it).
Opening track “Song for Agnes” is a true look into what you can expect from the rest of 9. Allbrook’s vocals are as unmistakable as ever (and as strong as ever), while the layered controlled chaos of a choir and distorted guitars all come together in a climactic rock opera encompassing 4 minutes. It’s the exact start to 9 you’d expect from the band and the perfect introduction to where the band’s head was at when commencing those jam sessions.
The shortest track on 9 comes in the form of “Human Touch”, the one song on the album that could probably have been on any of the previous eight albums from Pond. Its pulsating backbeat and a hypnotic keyboard loop from Jay Watson helps “Human Touch” reach a strange but ultimately satisfying peak, especially considering the song was inspired by a cooked conversation with an attempted car thief.
A funk-driven almost four minutes of sleek and distinguished guitar, “America’s Cup” is straight out of the ’80s, with an elastic disco beat that is prime for a feature in a dark club, post-midnight set, G&T in one hand and a fond look into a terrible hangover in the other. If this imagery doesn’t sell it to you, you’re a lost cause. The good times roll on with “Pink Lunettes”. Acting as the first taste of the album the public got to experience, “Pink Lunettes” is a filthy near six minutes of dancefloor-ready chaos. This is the exact song the human race has been missing out on in clubs over the past two years.
At near enough to five minutes long, “Czech Locomotive” is mostly spoken word from Allbrook in its opening half, before the drum fills kick in, leading into a completely satisfying closing half that continues to embrace the creative abandon the band indulged in during the album’s initial recording stages. Following “Czech Locomotive” is a surprising peak for 9. Featuring a Jungle Giants type of vibe mixed with an almost afro-beat (think Contra era Vampire Weekend), “Rambo” is probably the lightest and most fun of the nine cuts from the album (with lyrics like ‘And if you can’t see a problem with Batman, then your poetry is no good to me’, it’s hard to argue). Getting as close to a full-blown pop moment as Pond wanted to touch on 9, “Rambo” ends in layered vocal joy from Allbrook, before its exit ascends into a washed-out escapist dream.
Album closer “Toast” is probably the most dour moment on 9, as the band slowly eases out of the relative insanity of the release. It’s a calming completion to an album that at times is rabid, but always charming. Pond is a band not bound by expectations or trends and 9 is just a continuation of what they do best. Embrace the weird nature of Pond; you might need it more than you think.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
9 is out Friday 1 October. Merch bundles are available HERE.
Header image credit: Matsu