Album Review: Cotton Ponies – Zwist

[Discorporate Records; 2013]

What seems on the first listen as an extension of not only post-rock but the scene evolving around the Discoporate crew in what was formerly Eastern Germany becomes, through multiple applications, a very listenable and promising, if not regrettably too short first offering from Cotton Ponies. In general it seems that these foals are finding their stride, but without qualification will I say that I am much looking forward to being able to continue to listen to this album, hopefully catch the dynamic trio in a less bridled live context, and wait for the evolution of the band. Small complaints would include a lack of transitions that I know they are capable of, and just a little more of everything. Fans of bands like Hume, Don Vito, Don Cab, and the grand slew of the post punk/rock bands will find themselves well at home in these twenty minutes, and will notice that no element has not been probed for applicability in this first of openers. To get a better idea of what to expect, see the play-by-play following.

The album opener “O” starts reminiscent of the opening lines of Battles’ first offering, with a loose tom followed close by clean guitars in based intertwining with one another in traditional, unobtrusive post rock still. Slightly ahead of itself, the beat pushes forward before breaking off to open, minimal chords, and eventually returning with a slightly elevated intensity to the original groove, and a sudden shift follows in the same direction, but with more distortion, and with what one could describe as a slightly more aggressive, but equally pleasant and accessible combination of interesting, starkly major sounding guitar riffs. The drums drive with simple but effective “Won’t Get Fooled Again” style grooves. A small interlude, and then a revival of the original playfully dancing lines of the opening directly before the close.

The second track “Hund” starts faster and intentionally dissonant, playing more with pseudo-mathrock and excellent use of muted strikes on the guitar. Following that we find something more in line with the first track, then something that sounds like psycho surf rock, with the guitar insisting on single notes high in register, and the bass mimicking in rhythm but residing on the lower tracks.

In the third, “Action,” we find more of the same, but with a slightly slowed down tempo, the begins awkward, and develops quickly into a demented polka of sorts, rife with strange bass chords and percussive elements form the guitar. Somehow the song evolves into a Yopo-induced tribal ritual from Latin America, with hard abusive on tri-tones, counterbalanced by tight drumming.

The fourth track “Sirene” may function more or less as filler, but is one of the most interesting tracks. Here it seems that group found the tonality and mood they were looking. Essentially reducible to three parts, the recurring thematic doesn’t stand up to the deliberate yelps and madness of the other parts.

The fifth track “Polyp” begins as a tribute to the beginning of “Larks Tongue in Aspic part I” from King Crimson, with small bells and rubbings on empty strings. It then slides easily into something that could have been from the post rock of the 90s, like June of 44. Without words the track slows to and expansive groove characterized by echoing guitar noises and a chugging base. The drums remain consistent until the track becomes something reminiscent of Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain.” Then, to a Jane’s Addiction style groove, with a highly major tonic and very well placed drums. From that, we enter suddenly and intensifying assault surrounding major but harshly distorted progressions.

For the final track “Krypt” the band begins with a flowing bass heavy groove with more guitar noise than actual notes. Straight to a math groove with sound effects that come almost directly from a recent release from a contemporary German band. The only words in the album find themselves in the last two minutes, mimicking a, perhaps the only true, guitar melody, interposed with Collapsar style riffs in Sonic Youth chords. The thematics evolve in and around themselves to multiple incarnation with simple plodding bass lines and machine gun style drums, for a sudden and unexpected finish.