Manatella played with these dudes a couple weeks ago. They put on a very cool live show.
Pontiak’s studio in rural Virginia is about 12’x12’ and largely responsible for the saturated sound on their new album Maker. The band recorded the album in the same way as their previous efforts, themselves in a studio of their own making. Preferring the energy of a mostly live recording and understanding how to capture their sound, Pontiak recorded with lightening speed, generally keeping the first take as the final take. A lifetime of shared experiences certainly informs the three Carney brothers playing as a band. Jennings’ bass or Lain’s drums often finish the thoughts of Van’s guitar. This is a level of musical communication that most bands are only able to achieve after years of touring and recording. It also may account for their staggering productivity, this being their third Thrill Jockey release, in just over a calendar year.
Van blew two amps during the recording of Maker but in the process found a sound he had been searching for – the dwindling life of his amps. It is his distorted instrument that accounts for the overall earthy tones on Maker. The brother’s voices are remarkably similar, causing the lead and chorus to blend seamlessly. Together the vocals bring a warmth to “Wild Knife Night Fight”, “Honey” or Seminal Shining” and an eerie sensation that comes from what appears to be a chorus of one. Van’s guitar work is an exercise in extremes with rhythmic drone, shifting often within one song into sharp lines. He leads the listener through a maze of sustain and hum tones with his piercing phrases, often on this album, punctuated by the intermediary sounds of his overextended amps.
The adjectives often used to describe their music could also easily describe the musicians. Raised on a farm, the brothers are distinctly rural in their close ties and understanding of the land and our relation to it. When touring they often skip the comfort of the motel bed for the delight of camping under the stars. They paid the price on a recent trip when setting up to sleep at a late hour; they missed a large patch of poison oak. Live they are loud, make that very very loud, pushing the PA as they push their amps. There is a swing to Lain’s drum playing and often in Jennings’ bass rhythms that can be felt and almost seen. One merely needs to stand back to watch the crowd weave in unison, lost in their ocean of sound. Although they formed in Baltimore, it was not long before they returned to the farm country of their youth. There they built their studio, and on their subsequent albums, by combining disparate elements that alone ring familiar, have pioneered a sound that is entirely their own.