As much as I dearly love my sweet muffin of a cat Millie, taking care of her has had its challenges since we first picked her up from the shelter eight months ago. Even though I had always dreamt about one day having a cat of my own, being confronted with the real, day-to-day responsibilities and frustrations of a small, living creature in my home has, at times, damaged my sanity more than I’d like to admit. Call it immaturity, call it fear of relinquishing my energies and privacy toward an entity outside of myself, but there is a side of me that sometimes can’t take the middle-of-the-night wakeup calls, the whining after already being fed, the actions of a creature too clueless and childlike to follow anything but its basest impulses and needs.
And yet, sheltering and providing for this innocent little sweetheart is so innate, so rewarding, so crucial to preserving the universal quality of life itself that it’s no wonder I immediately began offhandedly referring to her as “Baby” from the moment she stepped into our home. There are some things that no amount of mixed feelings or complexity can erase, and Sanford Ponder’s 1986 oddity Tigers Are Brave taps into that kind of virtuous energy and light, beamed through to another world of tropical mystique and primordial fantasia. Although the California-based Ponder only ever released two records under his own name, his warped-out compositions for the Fairlight CMI sampling synthesizer are downright prophetic now next to the astral MIDI hellscapes of artists like Giant Claw or James Ferraro. But where those minds might plunge the depths of human perversity in search of their treasure, Ponder’s M.O. is far too jovial for such brutal apocalypticism, and listening to the new-age safari of Tigers Are Brave can feel like an alternate history of vaporwave devolution, where the disenfranchised internet masses never became too embedded in their own personal wormholes to take an unabashed, unironic saxophone solo every once in a while.
Tigers Are Brave sits at a magnificent intersection of high-brow and cheese, an exquisitely peaceful soundtrack for getting lost in a fractalized forest of erroneous shapes and animals. Although Ponder’s other solo outing (the meditative Etosha: Private Music in the Land of Dry Water) is equally hypnotizing, Tigers Are Brave bears a drama that makes for good company into Ponder’s bizarre universe, the dazzling impression that the sounds and samples he’s arranged into form are as alive as anything else in the rainforest. Tigers Are Brave isn’t about the hunt, however; as fearsome as they might be, tigers and kitty cats need protecting too.