Label: Thrill Jockey
If it was possible to boil down stoner rock down to some turbid essence you might end up with something roughly equivalent to a stew of Sabbath, Melvins and Kyuss. Which if you think about it is one hell of Godhead, and one which doesn't allow for a whole lot of manoeuvring. That Virginia 3 piece Pontiak have elbowed their way in and don't sound over-awed or limp is quite something.
Pontiak's signature could be the title song from their last record, Sun on Sun - an eight-minute deconstruction of 'War Pigs' based around the most rudimentary bass and organ line. The track builds to a harmony-laden southern rock epic that's simultaneously filthy and howling, light and airy - a sound which owes a good deal to their writing and recording method, namely: a big barn, jam around a central basic idea and record the first take. Maker is both cleaner and more ambitious than Sun on Sun, yet somehow even more deconstructed, and in places a fine mess.
The opening trio of tracks - 'Laywayed', 'Blood Pride' and 'Wax Worship' - are a miniature suite and they contain everything that's great and slightly maddening about the record as a whole: fat grooves, flame-thrower guitars and a great wall of Brant Bjork like drums. Yet (and this is going to sound like cursing them for everything that makes them great), 'Wax Worship' for all its fire is oddly directionless (see also the Headless Conference fragment). And I can't decide if that's a function of their style, lazy listening on my part or something deeper.
The title track here dominates proceedings too. 'Maker' is a vast thing, over 13 minutes long, again built around a grungy, filthy riff that recalls 'Molten Universe' from Blues for the Red Sun. The track collapses in on itself around the nine minute mark and the blues skeleton that gives structure to their sound is revealed. It's a telling moment. 'Aestival' is probably the best thing here though, a brooding lumbering thing of embers and menace - and its power comes from the sense of restraint the band place it under: it doesn't break out but it doesn't need too. Instead, they sound like they could sink through the surface of the earth and keep going...
So despite some churlish reservations about some of the more hit and miss moments on Maker it is, ultimately, a fine slab of dirty, stoned rock grooves, the likes of which I haven't heard for many a long year.
Download: Pontiak - Honey