‘9’ is extravagant psychedelic exploration by Pond

Album cover of Ponds new album, 9
Spinning Top Records/Courtesy

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Grade: 4.0/5.0

Among Australia’s ever-growing psychedelic rock scene, Pond has established itself, album after album, as a formidable force since its formation in 2008. Known for cleverly combining energetic pop with ethereality, the band continues to break the already volatile barriers of psychedelic rock. 

Released Oct. 1, Pond’s latest record 9 somehow finds new instrumental territories to uncover after 2019’s Tasmania — the first album since 2012 not produced by Kevin Parker of Tame Impala fame. 9 is a smorgasbord of psychedelic genre deviations and risks that pay off handsomely.

A striking start to the album, “Song for Agnes” pulls out all the stops when it comes to energy and instrumentals. Beginning with a slow and steady beat, the track descends into controlled madness, the driving beat like a freight train barreling through listeners’ ears. The song is one of many on the record to boast mild synth vibes, but it also seems to mimic elements of a standard hip-hop beat. Frontman Nick Allbrook’s vocals are smooth and slightly phased out, complementing the pounding nature of the song with their muted quality.

Much of the album is ‘80s inspired — a trend that has been sweeping countless music genres over the past few years. Pond, however, manages to take the best and grooviest parts of synthwave and transform a well-trodden path into something fresh and exciting. This ‘80s psychedelia perfectly walks the line between jazzy nostalgia and modern trippiness, making for a listening experience that’s nothing short of captivating.

“America’s Cup,” the second single released from 9, is a textbook example of Pond’s combination of funky and breezy instrumentals. The band knows just when to switch up the hypnotic beat and shake things up, incorporating deep piano notes alongside the extraterrestrial sounding synths. The song is not, as one may assume from the title, a critique of the United States, but instead of the gentrification of the band’s home state in Western Australia. There’s never a dull moment throughout the song, in both the beats and pointed lyricism.

A bit of a contrast to “America’s Cup,” “Pink Lunettes” is straight chaos, an electronic-tinged, dance-worthy track. Described by Allbrook as a “one-take vomit of pretentious art school tripe,” the song’s frantic synth beat interspersed with bright notes are a perfect backdrop for the frenzied lyrics. “A flaming superjet/ Looking good in pink lunettes,” he sings.

One of the greatest strengths of 9 is that its slower songs don’t disrupt the flow the more upbeat ones have created; in fact, they provide a brief but welcomed reprieve from the constant stream of energy. A third of the album are slow songs — “Czech Locomotive,” “Gold Cup/ Plastic Sole” and “Toast” — which all eventually pick up into a hopeful beat. “Gold Cup/ Plastic Sole” and “Toast” are gorgeous, yearning songs, with the violin arrangements on “Toast” creating a relaxing end to a high-octane album.

9 is an immaculate instrumental soundscape crafted by Pond. An album truly made for the ears, it’s like a rollercoaster you never want to get off. The band’s inclusion of plentiful growling synths as well as delicate piano, fast drum beats and muted yet vibrant vocals across the album don’t allow for a single boring moment that loses your attention. 

While 9 doesn’t feature any sprawling numbers such as those on Man It Feels Like Space Again and Tasmania, the record is still plenty effective without. Overall, 9 shows the band’s range as well as its ability to adhere to what it does best. Pond sacrifices neither quality nor genuine eccentricity, and it’s a methodology that’ll serve them well for many albums to come.

Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected]. Tweet her at @callmepbj.