Ponytail, Compression @ Sonar

All photos: Robert Jacobs

Get Ponytail’s entire set at Beatbots A/V Club!

Compression have been around for a while (1993 to be exact). To quote front-man Greg Scelsi “probably before most of you could drive.” They started the night on a solid, forceful note. Being the first somewhat hardcore (with plenty of metal flavorings) band I’ve probably seen in about a year, I can say they have a fury about them. Their sound is a truly percussive, gale force wind that knocks you off your stride and takes your breath away…often by brute strength. Muscular riffs tear through each song like a prize-winning thoroughbred, awe-inspiringly powerful yet exceedingly graceful.

The years of playing together are quite apparent, as the group was tight-knit and confident on stage, despite being slightly mismatched to the remainder of the night’s bill. Scelsi is a high-energy, captivating front-man absent the usual machismo that comes with being in a heavy band. He lets his ample singing/screaming talents do all the heavy lifting, capably navigating between spoken word, crooning and one of the better hardcore screams in the area (definitely possessing a more convincing upper-register than most). Guitarist Paul Joyce and bassist Mike Albi were positively fierce and computer-precise players, scaling all over the necks of their axes. They deftly snaked through riffs from psych blues to metal to hardcore and back, all with distinct and vivid moods. Compression left a lasting impression as one of the most nuanced, talented and accessible heavy sets I’ve seen in quite a while.

Ponytail are one of the truest examples of art-rock I can think of. They treat sound and its progression through time like a medium. Ponytail really are using sounds like colors, conjuring a broad range of emotion. Enough can’t be said of Molly Siegel’s vocal performance; Siegel deconstructs herself on every song, primally regressing her stance from upright to slouched to hunched primate to primordial mass of kicking-and-crawling-and-yelping emotion. Her intensity is one of her greatest assets, every step of the regression seeming to take utmost concentration and effort, toeing the line between physical and emotional exhaustion and ecstasy. Her vocals completely set the tone and atmosphere of Ponytail’s music, forming a unique sort of modern musical tribe, with Siegel as their oracle (and Wong as an occasional screaming/warbling vocal assistant).

The frenetically dueling guitars laid down by Dustin Wong and Ken Sheeno, driven by the galloping precision drumming of Jeremy Hyman, often make one feel as if caught in a musical tornado. Riffs and notes whizzing by and looping in an almost incomprehensible, polyphonic blur. But just as things become too intense, distinct lines and melodies emerge or the bottom drops out completely, leaving a solitary line to bridge the silence. These are probably Ponytail’s most glorious moments, these always brilliant and joyous bits of aural sunshine amidst the storm.

Watching Ponytail is like watching 4 painters starting to paint, each with their assigned colors, slinging buckets of it onto the canvas. At the beginning there is complete entropy, but if the artists are skilled, and they have a plan, patterns begin to emerge, the interplay of colors begins to form meaning and the painting starts to have real, emotional impact. Ponytail does exactly this, with every song, everytime. Live. There’s really not much more to say than that.

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One Response to “Ponytail, Compression @ Sonar”

  1. greg says:

    thank you for the kind kind words. you can also check out the entire compression live set for free.

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