Music Seen: Ocean and Pontiak

Ocean and Pontiak at SPACE Gallery, May 5
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  May 13, 2009

The day after Ocean's predictably under-attended (30-40 people) Cinco de Mayo performance at SPACE, a friend who also attended asked what I thought. "So loud," I said. "So slow," he responded. It wasn't hard to catch the reverence in both reactions.

Ocean's concerts demand you put on some earplugs but refuse to let you keep them in. Their music is, to a large degree, all about precisely what gets removed when there's a cushion between the stage and your shell-shocked eardrums: the puncturing shrapnel of their guitar feedback, Reuben Little's sunken growl.

The band played through the length of their latest album, the monolithic Pantheon of the Lesser (Important), and the differences (aside from the obvious absence of guest vocalist Yoshiko Ohara) were minor but interesting. Much of the set still moved at a slow, chugging grind, but the suspense in those long spaces between notes was greater: a product of eyeing drummer Eric Brackett to see when he'd lift his sticks again; wondering how long it would take Candy's wrenching, guttural vocals to fail; or merely the experience of hearing Pantheon echo out into a long, open room.

The night's out-of-town openers, earning more than a couple fans (and sales of their strong new album, Maker, on Thrill Jockey), were the three brothers Carney, who comprise Virginia's Pontiak. Equally loud but gleefully freewheeling in their approach, the trio never stay tethered to a style for long — whether dissonant stoner rock, borderline speed-metal, or a lighthearted indie style dotted with involving three-part harmonies.

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