When we checked in with Pony Bwoy last year, the duo were living and recording in their cold, cramped studio in northeast Minneapolis. Semi-homeless and grappling with the demands of musicianship, Jeremy Nutzman and Hunter Morley were more inclined to instruct readers to just sit down and listen to their music, rather than try to sell it with their words.
This week, Pony Bwoy release när-kə, a digital 13-track album that sprawls hesitantly out of a rumbling wall of bass, traveling through the murky veins of Nutzman and Morley's shared creative body -- two bodies, one mind. There is really only one appropriate word to describe the sound: acid. The kind you hold under your tongue.
After playing several local shows and modest touring dates for their self-titled effort, Pony Bwoy are waiting to play live again until their spring tour with Poliça, and a Twin Cities performance on Valentine's Day with Tickle Torture.
"We just have to step back and look at it for what it is, and not try to get ahead of it or make it into something that it ever was," Nutzman says. He is unsure if Pony Bwoy's music translates into a live setting.
Beginning with "Mər - Mər," a glorious come-down anthem reminiscent of their pervasive first single "Ævum," the songs seem to swell as the energy grows and Nutzman's stifled, oft-whispered murmuring turns to lyrical play from the depths of a multi-hit trip.
"We like to get all fucked up and sit all concentrated-like and create these songs," Nutzman adds. "Maybe we're not meant to try and stand on a stage and play these songs -- at least the way that we have been."
Morley puts it far more succinctly: "We're not very good at playing shows," he says. "That's the honest answer." Nutzman agrees. "We don't like our live show very much." Perhaps Poliça fans will be more receptive to the LSD-dipped sounds of Pony Bwoy than the local fan set that has grown partial to the amped-up sound of Nutzman's former outfit, Spyder Baybie Raw Dog.
När-kə -- the phonetic spelling of the first half of narcolepsy -- is full of welcome surprises and departure from the duo's familiar sound. "On Old Bones" is driven by a menacing bassline, set beneath Nutzman's spoken word portion -- "The sun is a rotten apple. I'm squatting on old bones...Haven't slept in days." "On Old Bones" is titled in reference to a passage in William S. Burroughs's Naked Lunch:
"Squatting on old bones and excrement and rusty iron, in a white blaze of heat, a panorama of naked idiots stretches to the horizon. Complete silence - their speech centres are destroyed - except for the crackle of sparks and the popping of singed flesh as they apply electrodes up and down the spine. White smoke of burning flesh hangs in the motionless air. A group of children have tied an idiot to a post with barbed wire and built a fire between his legs and stand watching with bestial curiosity as the flames lick his thighs. His flesh jerks in the fire with insect agony."
Nutzman's lyrics stemmed from a nightmare Morley had, and asked Nutzman to put into words, on his birthday this year. "You can see movies of your dreams," Morley says. "I was dying over and over in my dream." "On Old Bones" is the kind of song that becomes your best friend at 6 a.m. in the throes of a nightmare, but the sort you have while you're awake still as the sun is beginning to rise. It is a welcome haunt, an encouragement to push through into lucid dreaming.[page]
As terrifying as this acid trip may seem, it does have its own seemingly private moments of sheer beauty. "Kī - ˈō - Tē" is carried by a soothing guitar sample than dances between Morley's electronic subtleties.
"We made the song on acid, in the suburbs," Nutzman says. When we asked him about the lyrics he laughs, but remains tacit.
With Nutzman's voice rising above the guitar chords, "Kī - ˈō - Tē" is like a light in the dark, the part of the trip where everything starts to make sense and the fear is suddenly gone. We are suspended between earth and sky, but still somehow plummeting forward. The moment doesn't last, though. We find our peace ultimately torn from us, as we are plunged back into the shadows with the next track, "Inanimate, Baby."
Each song on när-kə is an on opportunity amply taken by Morley to display his prowess at the machinery that Pony Bwoy has amassed over the years. The album is tangible proof that Morley is a mastermind of his own right, constructing small universes out of particles of sound and presenting them in such a calculated manner that they seem to contain themselves, though each song is bursting at the seams with nuance. Taking cues from experimental artists like Oneohtrix Point Never, Morley abides by no standard or formula and takes every opportunity possible to push boundaries and expectations. Like an oil painting, när-kə is the product of patience and layering.
Normally, a group with such self-inflicted mystery and such disinclination to perform live would fade off into the ether, but Pony Bwoy's music is strong enough to speak for itself. With that in mind, check out när-kə this week -- in the dark, eyes closed.
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