There are few active bands in the region that have committed to churning out a respectably sized discography in the shortest amount of time possible as much as the High Diving Ponies. The band, in its current incarnation, caught my attention early last year by announcing their plans to release not one, or two, but three albums in the year of 2010. Their agenda was pushed into motion with the release of the 10-track Fractals in Heat, a fuzzed out, reverb heavy and, yes, probably substance-enhanced work that was equal parts grunge and shoegaze, a comfort zone giving just as much credence to Sonic Youth’s Evol as the pure wall-of-noise segments present in My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless.
The counterpart release to Fractals proper was the same album, mixed by Tim Goodwillie (GOODWILLIES), skewing the levels and creating a feeling the album is either being listened to through a slow-running blender, or the sound is vibrating off the walls of a steel grain bin. Listening to either release, you would expect that the currently played album is how it was meant to be heard, the preference is really in the hands of the audience. As quickly as the first two were made public, a third album was released. This one, titled Casino Economy, showed temperament on the band’s part, demonstrating a much more restrained approach to what was once just an onslaught of reverb. What could easily have been confused as an attempt to cover up a lack of songwriting skills in previous releases, was now stripped down just a little to reveal that underneath all of the noise there was real talent present.
Frontman Josh Thomas is no stranger to the use of reverb and noise as an artificial instrument. Prior to the existence of HDP, Thomas fronted Spidermums, a band similar not only in sound, but in the delivery of their physical product, using stenciled black sleeves to house each of their two CD-R releases (the last of which featured drumming from Gaurav Bashyaklarla of CVLTS), a trend that continued on with the Ponies. You could say that the change was more in name only than in sound, but with a new name came a new lineup, eliminating a cast that had largely been a part of Thomas’ endeavor previous to the ‘Mums, the straight ahead grunge outfit Bodisartha. The band garnered a bit of attention in the mid ‘oughts, and could be frequently found on the lineup at one of midtown KC’s shortest-lived but most documented haunts, The Sleeper Cellar.
Back to the present, and not to be outdone by… themselves, the self-described “danger pop” band released yet another album in November of 2010. Broken Sunbather would prove to be both a continuation of Thomas’ decision to focus on more of the intricacies that were often overlooked in some of his previous work, and a harkening back to the raw, out-of-tune fuzz rock they had built their reputation upon. Many of the nine tracks present on Sunbather had been tossed around in demo form by the band for most of the year, a few even appearing on a live recording the band posted online from a Recordbar show they played earlier that spring.
Little was heard from HDP for a few months. Their Twitter account was updated frequently, but mostly either updated the followers on what ever band Josh was recording/mastering (the previously mentioned CVLTS, as well as Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk) or was limited to a one-line anecdote about drugs or a cryptic allusion to the thoughts taking place in his head at that particular moment. The occasional live performance announcement or a passing remark about a 7 inch would be made from time to time, vinyl had been mentioned as a possible format since the band’s conception, though cassettes were a frequent medium as well. As spring arrived, the discussion of a new analog release was steadily increasing, when last week, the news was out. The band plans to release the lathe-cut Pain Pills 7 inch in mid-June, and its run is limited to a mere 33 copies. They have posted a link where the EP can be downloaded for free. As far as getting your hands on a copy of the 7 inch, well I guess you’ll just have to check back in here after the band announces a release show.
Bonus: download Spidermums’ fantastic cover of The Amps’ “Bragging Party” right here.