One day about three years ago, in the slack mist of Portland, Oregon, I trudged down to the river to watch local bands play a festival called the Mayor's Ball (Portland at the time had a pretty cool mayor). One of the more memorable of several memorable bands was called Pond, and they played under a bridge, the concrete roof two feet overhead bouncing muddy shards of sound in every direction. Pond sounded good that way, and when I got the band's eponymous Sub Pop debut in the mail two years later I realized that except for the mud, that's how Pond sounds all the time: crosshatched vectors of guitar buzz brought to a raging boil in a confined space, bouncing off the walls with heat but always turning back on itself. Pond was a Superball of compressed and controlled noise.
Portland noticed first, Seattle (in the form of Sub Pop) second and then England, where finicky Melody Maker tastemaker Everett True adopted the trio, lauded the gorgeous "Young Splendor" single, raved over their shows and sent them home with an armload of flattering hype.
Part of Pond's appeal, despite the fact that the band was discovered in the Seattle suburb of Portland, lay in Pond's non-Seattle-ness. For one thing, Pond singers Charlie Campbell (also on guitar) and Chris Brady (bass) can't compare to the Cornell/Cobain/Vedder/ Lanegan school of passionate virtuosity, but make up for it with decidedly non-precious harmonies. For another, you won't hear the angsting of the above-mentioned mope-club; Pond prefers songs about stuff that they dig, especially sleep and late morning dream states. It's been called, with some reason, sloth rock.
Not that you'll hear that lyric preoccupation the first time through. What hits you first are the swirling riffs -- alternately prog-rockish and Middle Eastern flavored -- and the propulsively psychedelic rhythm of Brady and Dave Triebwasser. Pond's tunes can sound like HYsker DY covering the trippier Beatles material or a reined-in Dinosaur Jr., with echoes of My Bloody Valentine's guitar maelstrom. But two albums in, Pond most of all sounds like Pond.
A second Sub Pop effort, the recently released The Practice of Joy Before Death, unapologetically mines the formula as if the band was perfectly aware that it invented none of this and is perfectly satisfied just to pick it up off the sidewalk and do it better, again, than anyone else happens to be doing it at the moment.
-- Brad Tyer
Pond plays Thursday, February 23 at the Urban Art Bar. Spell opens. Tickets cost $5. Doors open at 8 p.m. Call 629-3700 for info.
*Tab Benoit at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, Thursday, February 23.
*Hootie & the Blowfish at Fitzgerald's, Friday, February 24.
*Vince Bell at Anderson Fair, Friday, February 24.
*Korn at the Urban Art Bar, Saturday, February 25.
*London Suede and Catherine at Numbers, Sunday, February 26.
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