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Aural States Fest II: Spotlights – Pontiak, Caleb Stine, NARC

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MP3: Pontiak – Life and Coral from Sea Voids (2009)

The prolific Pontiak released two stellar albums in 2009: Maker and Sea Voids, and look to have a new release this Spring. Both albums have garnered considerable critical praise, and they’ve ridden a steadily rising wave of internet popularity. Their live show is captivating and loud…catch them close out Sonar’s Club stage at Aural States Fest II on January 30th.

AS: Before releasing Sea Voids you moved back to the Shenandoah Mountains and (from what I’ve heard) lost your beards. Was this a conscious shift? Identity crisis?

Lain Carney: We all moved back to VA from Baltimore at roughly the same time, about three years ago. The beards? Those come and go pretty frequently and without much thought. The move was definitely a conscious shift but more for personal reasons than anything else.

AS: The band gets tagged as stoner metal a lot but the new album explores a wide array of song styles, from the acoustic “Life and Coral” to the more traditional indie fare of “World Wide Prince.” Did you deliberately think “let’s mix it up a bit”…is this your “experimental” album or is there more to come?

LC: We never thought of Sea Voids as our experimental album. I feel as though its as varied as our other albums.

AS: This isn’t a question, but Sea Voids seems a lot more melodically dissonant as well–especially say, the lead on the title track juxtaposed with the brighter, more shimmering distortion is pretty brilliant.

LC: Thanks Man!

AS: The first couple times I listened to “Suzerain” I thought my internet connection was failing (which I suppose is the modern equivalent of your CD skipping). What’s the story on that intro? You also played with the tape on the intro to “Laywayed” I believe.

LC: When I was mixing “Suzerain” I just had the idea to cut up the beginning. As soon as I started doing it, it immediately started to sound cool so I went with it. After I finished I said to Van and Jennings, “people are going to think the song is fucked up, not unlike ‘Laywayed’”.

AS: You must be downtuning your guitars to get them so rumbly. What do you tune them to, what gear do you use to achieve that signature pontiak growl?

LC: Yes, the guitars are tuned down to B. The sound we get is a direct result of one very key practice: turn the amps up. Once an amp is turned up, they all sound different and add their own color. Van always plays through at least two amps at once. That really helps to give the guitar a full sound.

AS: The press for Sea Voids that I’m looking at says you recorded the album in three weeks. Is that the most time you’ve spent in the studio? Some folks have suggested Maker was a one-take cut-and-run kind of recording session.

LC: We definitely try to not overwrite songs, and once we have an idea we try to record it while it’s fresh and loose. With Maker, as with our other records, we usually just did one or two takes for each song. It feels good to do one take and not become so concerned with “nailing it.” When I was younger I used to be really concerned with that stuff, but it’s way too micro.

Sea Voids was similar in that way. Just one take, maybe two. We wrote AND recorded it in three weeks which is the quickest we’ve ever done an album. It takes us about two weeks to record an album but the writing behind it can go back months, depending on how much we’ve been touring and things like that.

AS: You just had a European tour. How was the band received in Europe?

LC: Really well. We got tons of love in Europe and are about to head back actually in March. Can’t wait!

AS: Say I’ve never been to a Pontiak show…how’s it going to be different from your studio recordings? What can i expect?

LC: Our shows are usually pretty high energy. I’d say that it probably sounds like that album but louder.

AS: Tell us about your 2010 plans

LC: We’ll be in Europe in March, a new album in early spring and US shows in May. Summer and winter are going to be busy but things aren’t in stone yet. I’d like to have a new record by late summer.


Caleb Stine is the soul of Baltimore music. His straightforward, honest, storytelling is what Baltimore is at its core – hardworking, genuine, and unafraid to tell it like it is. As Baltimore’s music scene has taken on a larger national profile, much of it for noise driven noise-rock such as Animal Collective, Beach House, and Dan Deacon, it is Stine who always seems to best reflect the people of the city. His timeless style and deeply personal songwriting evokes images of a classic generation of outlaw-country songwriters like Kris Kristofferson, Townes Van Zandt, and Willie Nelson. His power comes not from overwhelming volume or violent guitars, but from simple strums and carefully measured words that together carry an army of unmatched strength.

Stine who has recently returned from a short tour with Andy Friedman, is energized from his time on the road. A time he spent discovering new music with Friedman as they drove from show to show, “Now I’m pulsing with great music in my veins and can’t put the guitar down.”

Saturday night, those simple strums and mighty words that he delivers his songs with will be given even more power and more life, as Stine has recruited an all-star band of local Baltimore musicians (Dave Hadley and Nick Sjostrom (the Brakemen), Andy Stack (Wye Oak), Jason Butcher (Among Wolves), Tiffany DeFoe (The Bellevedeers), MC Saleem (Saleem and the Music Lovers), Jordan Leitner (Mad Sweet Pangs) and Sam Guthridge (Chester River Runoff), to play with him. The combination of Stine’s music and his roster of all-stars will serve to deliver a set of unparalleled emotion that at the same time will be a reflection of his hometown. As Stine simply says, “Its gonna be a special set.”


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MP3: NARC – Cuped (demo)

I’ll be frank: I was never fully on-board with the teen sampler and noisenik duo of Engine. But since their split, NO Smith has followed a frequency that resonates with me much more in the form of his one-man guitar & electronics act NARC.

He presents something more curious and soaring, while not forsaking his noisier roots. According to Smith, “there will probably be an EP in the nearish future, maybe spring/summer, and hopefully a full-length called SLY by the end of the year.” NARC opens the Talking Head Stage on Saturday.

Preview: Aural States Fest II @ Sonar Club Stage/the Talking Head (2010.01.30)

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  1. MP3: Pontiak – Suzerain from Sea Voids (2009)
  2. MP3: Vincent Black Shadow – Flash Roll from More Deeper (2008)
  3. MP3: Leprechaun Catering – Night In Amnesia from Kumquats, Lychees (2004)
  4. MP3: Caleb Stine – Two Mantras (Small Sur cover) from Baltimore Does Baltimore (2009)
  5. MP3: Benjy Ferree – Dog Killers! from Leaving the Nest (2006)
  6. MP3: Sick Sick Birds – Buildings from Heavy Manners (2009)
  7. MP3: Noble Lake – Ladies and Gentlemen from Heyday (2008)
  8. MP3: Height With Friends – Swiss Chard from Swiss Chard Vol. 1 (2009)
  9. MP3: Thrushes – Crystals from the forthcoming LP Night Falls (2010)
  10. MP3: True Womanhood – Magic Child from the Magic Child Single (2009)
  11. MP3: Lands & Peoples – Bad Habits

web Aural States Fest 2 new

Teaser image to the right, proper flyer art coming from Nolen Strals of Post Typography/Double Dagger fame.


Aural States announces line-up, details for Aural States Fest II

December 11 2009 – Baltimore, MD – Baltimore-based music website Aural States (auralstates.com) is proud to announce Aural States Fest II, our second anniversary blow-out at Sonar Club Stage & the Talking Head on Saturday January 30th in Baltimore, MD. This will likely be the final year for Aural States to be based in Baltimore, and hence, the final Aural States Fest.

The line-up for this year includes a wide variety of acts from Baltimore and DC, crossing generational and genre boundaries:

Pontiak (www.myspace.com/pontiak)

Leprechaun Catering (www.myspace.com/leprechauncatering)

Vincent Black Shadow (www.myspace.com/vbskicksoutthejams)

Sick Weapons (www.myspace.com/sickweapons)

Office of Future Plans (J Robbins of Jawbox | www.myspace.com/officeoffutureplans)

Caleb Stine (www.myspace.com/calebstine)

Benjy Ferree (www.myspace.com/benjyferree)

Sick Sick Birds (www.myspace.com/sicksickbirds)

Noble Lake (www.myspace.com/noblelake)

Dustin Wong (www.myspace.com/dustinclarence)

Height With Friends (www.myspace.com/height)

Thrushes (www.myspace.com/thrushes)

True Womanhood (www.myspace.com/truewomanhood)

Lands & Peoples (www.myspace.com/landsandpeoples)

Ami Dang (www.myspace.com/amritakd)

Liveshitbingepurge (Newagehillbilly, Decapitated Hed, and Pawly Walnutz | mt6records.com)

NARC (www.myspace.com/iamthenarc)

Stay tuned for additional line-up announcements in the coming weeks.

Like last year, early arrivals with ticket stubs will be rewarded with a limited-supply of generous grab-bags filled with CDs and merchandise from (mostly) local artists and businesses, including Atomic Books, Video Americain, Baltimore Jazz Alliance, Thrill Jockey, Natty Paint, and many more.

This year we are proud to team up with our younger regional cousin Bmore Musically Informed (bmoremusic.net) to present our festival as Night 2 of the “Blogtimore PWNS” weekend. Night 1 takes place Friday January 29th, when a combination of Aural States Fest alums (Arbouretum, Wye Oak, Sri Aurobindo) and fresh local talent (Weekends, the Violet Hour) will play the last show ever at the G-Spot.

Tickets for Night 1 are $10ADV/$12DOS and available through missiontix.com. Tickets for Night 2 are $15 and available through sonarbaltimore.com. A limited supply of 50 double-header tickets are available for a discounted rate of $20 through (sonarbaltimore.com and missiontix), and will guarantee access to both nights.

Album Review: Pontiak – Maker (Thrill Jockey)


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MP3: Pontiak – Wax Worship

Drenched in reverb, as though recorded in some distant wooded canyon, ex-Baltimoreans Pontiak follow up their hard-rocking psychedelic debut with another strong offering of much of the same. Which is problematic, because somehow this band sounds both all too familiar and equally difficult to describe. Stoner metal riffs that could have come off a Kyuss album are buried between, and sometimes subconsciously emerge from, more eerie and vaguely defined, druggy soundscapes. Luckily Ponitak pack enough twists and turns into a three-minute jam to keep you on your toes, never dragging their heels or resting their laurels on a single riff or sound (a habit some stoner rockers too easily settle into).

Read the rest…

Arbouretum/Pontiak – Kale Split 12″ LP (Thrill Jockey)

Arbouretum & Pontiak play the Talking Head this Friday, Sept 5 with Psychic Paramount and Sri Aurobindo. Not to be missed.

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MP3: Pontiak – Dome under the sky

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MP3: Arbouretum – Buffalo Ballet

John Cale is the highly prolific co-founder of a little band called the Velvet Underground. There is no shortage of love for his work, but this masterful EP collaboration of Arbouretum and Pontiak may be the best expression of it.

Arbouretum and Pontiak are both highly respected and talented groups of rockers steeped in folk, psych and garage rock traditions. Arbouretum works in a bit more of a meta, grander scale working more in the realms of folk and an almost supernatural force while Pontiak explores a more micro level, bringing the visceral crunchier psych jams and freak-outs.

Read the rest…

Interview: Arbouretum (w/ Dave Heumann)

Arbouretum is the band, Kale is the album. It’s a split album done with Pontiak and featuring some John Cale covers, as well as new material.
Aural States sat down to chat with Arbouretum frontman Dave Heumann about a month ago at the Cylburn Arboretum, of all places. The wind rustling through the trees can be heard in the background on my hand-held recorder.

Also, be sure the check out Arbouretum and Pontiak at the Talking Head on September 5th.

Read the rest…

Arbouretum, Pontiak, Blake e/e/e @ the Talking Head

Live audio is up for Arbouretum here and Pontiak here, presented by Jeff the Baltimore Taper in association with Aural States.

Coming in late, I apparently missed a great set from Television Hill, another project of Dave Heumann from Arbouretum. But honestly, both Arbouretum and Pontiak ended up killing it so much I didn’t need another great set.

Blake e/e/e were still set to open though. They proved very perplexing to me with a curious brand of experimental folk. In their music, there is an almost constant strain of something mysterious, je ne sais quoi, that pulls me in an appealing direction. Their recorded material delivers, but unfortunately, through the live execution and follow-through on that initial attraction, there is a lot left to be desired. The set ended up as an average experience for me, though not necessarily an unpleasant one. I tried desperately to put my finger on what that was and the only thing I have come up with thus far is either bad pacing on their part or low attention span on my part. Other than that, the only thing I found disappointing in their set was that there was never a real pay-off to any sort of slow-mounted tension. They should probably take some lessons from Pontiak and Arbouretum on that point.

Pontiak mounted the stage and proceeded to rebuke my growing perception that the most engaging things going on in music right now are the products of excessive style/genre fusion, musical alchemy.

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Pontiak Live @ the Talking Head

The Talking Head
Baltimore, MD
June 4, 2008

Van Carney-guitar, vocals
Jennings Carney-bass, keyboards
Lain Carney-drums

Source: Peluso CEMC6/ck4(card)>PS-2>AD-20>NJB3
Transfer: NJB3>PC>SF-7>Wav>FLAC
Taper: Jeff Mewbourn (jm292@yahoo.com)

Download full set as ZIP archive in the following formats: MP3 or FLAC
Stream or download individual tracks below.
Arbouretum’s set here.

Read the rest…