By Rory McArthur (@RoryMeep)
Australia has evolved into heaven for fans of psychedelic music over the past few years. Tame Impala are headlining arenas, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are about to release their 10th album since 2012, and a plethora of other acts are churning out reliably satisfying tunes every other week. Due to this, its easy to overlook another band, one who have been reinventing themselves consistently since their first few records, prolifically producing quality music along the way. Pond are seen by many to be little more than a Tame Impala side project, but in truth, despite sharing a few members with their better-known mates, they have evolved into their own, equally talented entity. Their last two records, Hobo Rocket and Man It Feels Like Space Again, were both wonderfully disorientating triumphs, each worlds apart from the other sonically, yet united in their idiosyncratic charm. Following on from MIFLSA, the band plunges deeper into synth based songwriting on latest effort The Weather, producing a mixture of both funky, pop orientated songs, alongside a healthy dose of experimental oddities.
The album’s highlights provide some of the best music the band has produced thus far in their career, crafting a satisfying blend of lush synths, catchy melodies, and occasionally some soaring guitar parts that recall previous albums. Opener 30000 Megatons brings dramatically swirling textures into the mix, building in intensity beautifully until it all drops away and we’re treated to the brilliantly glammed up sounds of Sweep Me Off My Feet and Paint Me Silver. This trio of tracks goes to show that the band can easily move away from their more rock orientated comfort zone and still produce top quality music. The closing title track matches this quality, creating a mesmerising concoction of sparkly synths and fuzzed out guitar tones that end the record on a euphoric high note.
Sitting in-between these tracks though, is an expanse of experimental pieces, which, although intriguing, often come and go in a bit of a blur, proving difficult to get a hold on even with multiple listens. The experimentation has been noticeably upped when compared to the bands previous releases, and as a result, Pond have produced what is likely to be their most polarising work yet. Wonky saxophone solos pop up in Zen Automaton, with vocals often coming through filtered, distant, and faded, with Nick Allbrooks near ever-present falsetto echoing off far back into the mix after they first come through. Whereas the experimentation on previous records has generally produced satisfying results, unfortunately, the sheer amount of it going on here makes much of the record seem quite cluttered and difficult to grasp.
Granted, certain tracks such as Edge of the World, Pt. 2 do show their quality on repeat listenings, but nevertheless, there is still a fair bit to be desired from this aspect of the record. A prime example of this comes in the form of A / B. The track begins as a throwback to the band’s heavier sound of the Hobo Rocket era, nicely breaking up the slower, meandering tone of the record as a whole. Around a minute in though, it transitions rather messily into a totally incongruent piano section, leaving you to feel as if a decent track has been chopped up and spoiled, purely for the sake of experimentation. A few more underwhelming filler tracks come and go before the record finds it feet again at its climax, but the album still ultimately provides precious little music worth revisiting too many times.
Despite containing some of the bands best music to date then, Pond’s latest effort is unfortunately a disappointment. By no means a poor record, it is a rather baffling one. On one hand it is a catchy, easy on the ears, synth led pop collection, and on the other, a disorientating jumble of too many experiments that never fully coalesce into a satisfactory whole. These two identities never really blend together cohesively, and as a result the finished product feels fairly underwhelming. MIFLSA is by far a superior showcase of their talent as far as synth-based music goes, and while definitely not suggesting the band has lost any of their unique charm, The Weather sadly provides far too few glimpses of it. Time may yet be kind to these songs, with multiple listens stripping away the layers of incoherence, but for now, it bears the unfortunate status of just being alright.