The back story for Baltimore's Pontiak is the sort of thing PR folks dream about: three brothers from Blue Ridge Mountain country who made their first two recordings in a log cabin and their third one in a Virginia farmhouse. If only they'd grown up in a one-room shack without running water, or been raised by a roving Pentecostal preacher. (Hey, wait a second ...)
No rural mythology or Kings of Leon-style marketing hype should be needed to sell their music, though, which speaks well for itself. Their pair of recent Thrill Jockey releases, “Kale” and “Sun on Sun,” are Exhibits A and B on that count. The former, “Kale,” is a John Cale-themed split release with their friends Arbouretum, while the latter is a proper reissue of their self-released second album from last year. Both discs feature a relaxed, unassuming guitar-trio sound that is classic without being retro, evoking a range of late ’60s and early ’70s influences without sounding much like anyone in particular. There's soaring psyche-rock, fuzzed-out proto-metal and cavernous folk balladry. It all sounds utterly natural.
"We had access to this huge log cabin on 200 acres of wooded land with a pond and river running through it," explains bassist Jennings Carney, describing the setting for “Sun on Sun.” (His brother Van plays guitar and handles lead vocals, while his other brother, Lain, plays drums.) "We had practiced the songs for several months before recording, so we had them down really well. We set up our equipment like a practice but all facing each other and kinda just hit the record button and played the songs live."
Log cabin or no log cabin, that "just hit the record button" approach serves them well on both records. The performances are free and fluid, and the unvarnished sound quality enhances the out-of-time feel of their music. If you didn't know better, their recent releases could have been recorded at any point during the last 35 or 40 years.
"We listen to music from all over the place and time," says Jennings, agreeing with the "out of time" description. "The beauty of the Internets [sic] is that we can find all these other bands out there globally that are writing music that resonates with us — not necessarily the 'same genre', but just that there is this like-minded approach."