Conceived as a soundtrack to accompany a road trip that the band took through the crater and ridge-strewn landscape of Southern Texas, Pontiak’s Comecrudos EP is vivid as a four-part play.
‘Part I’ crashes into view, like an orchestra noisily tuning-up, or the horn on a huge truck repeatedly honking, until it becomes more of a pulse or a rhythm than a sound effect. As the clarity of the trumpet notes meets the crackles, harsh drone and deep deep rumble, there is a sense of glowering ill-intent in the flicker and fuzz. Rainfall hisses in the background, evaporating on hot, dusty ground, as the massed brass begins to coalesce into a travel-weary, melancholy melody, mapping a path through the dystopian noise.
‘Part II’ begins as a continuum from the preceding piece. About a minute in, though, a beautiful melody and vocal arrive, bringing with them a complete change in mood. Having driven through the storm, and the harsh night, this feels like sunshine and daylight – the gentleness of the guitars, the softness of the laconic vocal. Indeed, the lyrics complete the picture, narrating the journey as it progresses: “We drive fast, over the mountains (…) Sun’s high above us / Clouds look down upon us” in a way that is almost superfluous, so clear is the picture that the music has painted thus far.
With ‘Part III’ the mood darkens slightly again. Cut through with a heavier, deeper twang and a rhythmic, almost mesmeric groove, the truck horns reappear (think: those massive US rigs, shiny and almost architectural, or weather-beaten and sinister as in Spielberg’s Duel), giving a sense of speed and propulsion. The vocal this time is yearning, perhaps travel-weary, and time-worn, as it sings of “lonely ghosts” and the colours made by the interplay of lights on the windscreen, its ’70s FM-radio feel coming off like Don Henley after too long alone at the wheel in the desert sun.
The final act – ‘Part IV’ – brings gravity by way of an organ’s sombre chords, while the brushed cymbal helps to retain the sense of forward movement. Bursts of melody arrive, like those sunspots on the window, and effloresce briefly, shimmering and potentially blinding, but never causing a swerve or change to that driving pace. Gradually, eventually, an almost anthemic guitar riff comes to the fore, bringing with it a sense of grandeur amidst the desolation, before gently ebbing away again, ushering more organ chords in its wake then finally, like the turning off of the ignition key, a stark, sudden silence brings the piece to an end.
What Pontiak seem to have hit on here – wonderfully – is a new way of doing “motorik” music. Some distance removed, geographically and musically, from the synthesised confections of kraut; this is earthy, dusty, heat-and-rain soaked automotive music – in equal part inspired by the vehicle in which the journey takes place, and riven from the harsh surroundings: the landscape, the weather, the sounds and the emotions evoked by the voyage.