My first experience seeing Pond in the flesh was one steeped in awe and awkwardness. It happened on a Friday night, near 12 months ago, at my maiden Meredith Music Festival. Overwhelmed by the kaleidoscopic colours and second-hand sofas adorning the Supernatural Amphitheatre, bassist Nick Brown of Melbourne punk gods Cable Ties happened to stride into my line of sight. Enriched with the excitement of my magical surroundings I introduced myself and managed to hold a conversation that only bordered on fangirling, rather than being deeply entrenched in it. As Pond stepped onto the stage I felt the conversation lull, as it rightly should have. I was, however, desperate to perpetuate my presence with a hometown hero and so asked if he knew who was playing. My embarrassing inability to identify Perth’s psych pioneers amid my distracted excitement brought enough shame with it to force me to part ways with Brown.
Whilst my credibility and fanciful friendship were lost that night, privately absorbing Nick Albrook laying his soul out on stage, drenched in sweat and with a psychotic glean to his eye, more than made up for the precluding failures. As fate would have it, Pond have released their first fully-fledged live record almost a year later. As revitalisers of the Perth psych scene in the late 00s this live set spans their eight studio albums, acting as both a greatest hits compilation as well as a testament to the captivating energy of an outfit at the height of their artistry.
Sessions follows hot on the heels of March’s critically acclaimed Tasmania, a record that saw Pond stride into a synth-heavy, art-psych sound that extended on their garage psych origins. Alt-pop anthem and album opener “Daisy” reintroduces itself here with mesmerising strings that enhance the mystical opening monologue. When the driving drums and synth hooks overlay the emphatically infectious chorus, the song feels unstoppable with a groove that feels fully realised. 2017’s The Weather, a sister album to their most recent, is represented by standout single “Paint Me Silver” which similarly enforces the band’s fervour through Albrook’s idiosyncratic coos and cries between lyrics.
Hidden gems from the band’s prolific back catalogue are sprinkled across the record to appease longtime fans and win newcomers alike. Rejigged to fit the more electronic-infused, groove-centric nature of Pond’s recent aesthetic, “Don’t Look At The Sun (Or You’ll Go Blind)”, taken from their 2009 debut Psychedelic Mango, gives greater prominence to the funk-filled bassline and syncopated inflections in a vein akin to LCD Soundsystem. Doubling the original’s length transforms the original psych sketch into a six-minute dancefloor filler. “Fire In The Water”, a bonus track from The Weather, pops in a similar way through the melding of psychedelic synths and danceable rhythms amid Albrook’s triumphant vocals.
With Albrook and Jay Watson being keys to Tame Impala’s live ensemble, it’s no secret Kevin Parker has been a longtime producer for his fellow statesmen and friends. This high level of soundsmanship from studio records continues with this live LP. Recorded during a European tour earlier this year, there’s a density to the acoustic space the band plays in, allowing each instrument to flourish. The beautifully rich reverb works well where electronic elements dominate, as on “Hand Mouth Dancer”. This mixing makeup also aligns nicely with the dystopian aesthetic the band has recently taken a turn into, allowing title track “The Weather” to assert itself in both sound and theme.
As reflective of the band’s sound on stage as Sessions is, it just as effectively marries Albrook’s recent introspections on sustainability with his ever-present romantic reflections. Tasmania’s title track’s lyrics, “I might go shack up in Tasmania, before the ozone goes, and paradise burns in Australia,” hit harder when alongside “Sweep Me Off My Feet”’s defeatist lovelorn conflict; “Then I’ll wind up with the other fools… wasting his time following you ’round, another lonely guy with longing in his eye”. The tracks selected hereby help unify key messages the band embody throughout their discography.
The only lowlights are the exhaustive deeper cuts. “Burnt Out Star”, whilst offering a propulsive conclusion, lacks the visual presence of Albrook’s stage presence to command interest throughout its first two thirds. The album’s tempered neo-ballad, “Medicine Hat” similarly suffers for arriving second last and a little too late. Whilst these slow burners tire more than they do excite, the transportive trip of “Man It Feels Like Space Again” closes the record in phenomenal fashion. The eight-minute odyssey traverses interstellar hymns, psychedelic detours and danceable funk to perfectly surmise all that had come before it.
Live albums can be complicated compositions. Aiming to articulate the energy of live shows to newcomers whilst replicating surreal experiences for fans is no cakewalk. Pond succeed on both fronts, pulling from their vast catalogue and revitalising tracks within the context of their most recent masterpiece. Whilst longtime devotees may rue the absence of psychedelic freakouts from their dawning days, the electronic-infused jams of Sessions are just as treasured.