Pontiak Sun on Sun

[Thrill Jockey; 2008]

Styles: burned-up blues, drone folk, heavy metal applesauce
Others: OM, Dead Meadow, Oakley Hall

Opening track “Shell Skull” tells you everything you need to know about Pontiak’s album Sun on Sun, originally released last year in scant quantity on Fireproof Records and seeing wide release this year via Thrill Jockey. The song features a fuzzy, muted bass groove, while the drums anchor the tune in mid-tempo doom metal mode, the bell of the cymbal clinking while the guitars climb from the rumble to ascend to scorched blues heights when the high-lonesome vocal drones aren’t in primary position. Yes, you’ve heard it before; but, c'mon man, it still rocks.

Recorded live without overdubs (minus vocals), the brothers Pontiak have a firm grasp of their unique take on power-trio rock music. Sounding alternately like southern rock from the cosmos, first-generation metal, backwoods blues, and fried noise rock, the trio incorporate subtle touches of organ and a load of natural ambience to their minimal sound.

Tracks like “White Hands” shoot for the moon, its vocal melody placing pop convention against the heavy girth of the crunchy guitars. “White Mice” recalls a jauntier OM before launching into a strangely funky verse, the sort of creepy grind My Morning Jacket aimed for but missed on their latest. The title track takes on Cream-/Blue Cheer-style blues, and slows it down to a crawl, with reverb-heavy guitar meandering over ominous chord changes, until the organ takes over and brings the whole thing to church. “Tell Me About It” mines the non-irritating aspects of The Doors, employing vague lyrics about “strange brown eyes” over surfy guitars, while “The Brush Burns Fast” places the band around a campfire, its psychedelic folk sound providing yet another interesting dimension.

Only 36 minutes long, the album is a pretty concise look at Pontiak. But taken for exactly what it is, Sun on Sun is a terrific introduction to a group that is probably going to hand over a masterpiece one day.

1. Shell Skull
2. Swell
3. White Hands
4. White Mice
5. Sun on Sun
6. Tell Me About It
7. The Brush Burned Fast

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