The three Carney brothers, who make up the entirety of Virginia throwback psych-rock act Pontiak, have done their best to keep the world at more than arm’s-length during their prolific career. They’ve released albums that seem crafted to only please themselves, EPs that never really go anywhere (last year’s Comecrudos, most egregiously), and have always recorded on their family farm out in the Blue Ridge Mountains, completely sequestered away from society. Some would say that this was all done in the name of preserving artistic integrity, to produce music immune to whatever was going on out there in the big, loud world, but the reality of what it produced was far from idyllic. Well, no more. Echo Ono is the sound of the Carneys extending an olive branch to the music world at large, a tight, 30 minute package of all-analog, dirt kicking psych melters and pastoral excursions that all crackle with immediacy and energy without sacrificing the gear-worshipping tenets they hold so dear. Much has been said already about Dave Grohl’s acceptance speech at the 2012 Grammys and the clarifications he had to make afterwards, but seriously, if he really wanted to prove his point in a succinct manner, all he would have to do is put this album on and say, “Here. This.”
The trio wastes no time seizing attention on opener “Lions Of Least,” kicking things off with a paint peeling guitar lead that sounds like it might careen into something of Motorhead tempo before snapping back into a sinister groove, accentuated by glowing organ and an urgent vocal performance from guitarist/vocalist Van Carney. “The North Coast” offers a brief moment of respite before crashing into “Left With Lights,” which lurches its way into a fury of Blue Cheer levels of grit and rock catharsis.
Even the more laid back portion of Echo Ono, represented by the four-track suite that sits in the album’s midsection, remains viable. The hypnotic, circular acoustic guitar figures of “Stay Out, What A Sight” rest on top of rolling drum work from Lain Carney, while Western-style lead parts and feedback shoot off in the background. The relaxed twang of “Silver Shadow” effortlessly transitions into a downbeat riff that only expands in size as the song moves forward. Placing the softer-hitting material all in a row makes sense once the closing duo of “Royal Colors” and “Panoptica” is considered- as it sounds like the trio is conserving energy, waiting for it to hit. The former track steadily builds on a repetitive bass and drum pattern before exploding into a colossal closing section, featuring the most ripping solo from Van the album has to offer. “Panoptica” is where all niceties are left aside, a psych freakout of the truest order, where the drums go absolutely batshit, guitars bleed feedback and atonal screams, and bassist Jennings Carney locks into a single note chug like he’s trying to figure out how many full-fisted hits it takes to snap his strings.
Echo Ono finds the Carney brothers completely re-doing their rural Virginia studio, equipment-wise, and focusing more on crafting an actual album instead of just compiling whatever songs they had sitting around waiting for recording. As such, it represents the peak of their career to date, excising the self-indulgent tendencies of before and replacing it with raw, spontaneous, and unfettered power and release that simultaneously addresses the visceral and refined.