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Review: Death To Ponies (小马之死) – Swine Water

Posted on the 10 November 2013 by Doughnutmag

Death To Ponies - Swine Water (EP)

Shanghai is known for many things. Many things I won’t repeat to you now. China is a crazy place, who’s going to argue with that? One thing that has recently become clear is that they have some pretty awesome bands mucking about. Crazy-core (or whatever) acts like Death To Giants, two genre-bending improv musicians, and Acid Pony Club, two French electronic artists who have come in search of the new sound, all prove that Shanghai is making a name for itself.

Death To Giants are not exactly a band you can accuse of playing it safe (read our recent interview with them here). For them, the process is testing the limits. The same can be said of Acid Pony Club, who found inspiration years ago in techno, heavy metal and rock ‘n roll, perhaps an unlikely source for modern-day electronic musicians to draw from the well. In any case, both these groups relish releasing experimental/psychedelic pieces. It’s no wonder they decided to team up for their collaborative release entitled Swine Water.

‘Droning A’

Swine Water as an EP contains the uninhibited experimentation that you’d expect from these groups (and for the uninitiated, perhaps even more so). But let’s be real here; the purpose of this album isn’t mass market appeal. These aren’t songs in the conventional sense as much as they are pieces of improvisation hell-bent on becoming songs; not surprising giving the experimental nature of DtG. With two of them over the 10 minute mark, loose structures, and in tune with its cover art, the EP is a droning, tribal experience with rattling, echo-laden guitar strings, swirling keys and barely-there vocals that add to the ambiance.

The EP starts with trickling, modulated guitars and gothic keys. From there on it’s easy to get lost in the sprawl that is essentially head-music with touches of psychedelic rock. These pieces, especially the extended ones, go in search of purpose from the get-go, sometimes hitting a creative stride, other times not finding it quite as easily.

Death To Ponies EP artwork

The evolving segments build and layer as it continues. Structure is occasionally jettisoned to the wayside, but is mostly brought into check by the drum and bass section, especially the bass which manages to evoke riffage that sounds quite like something Tool might have run with, as well as encompassing the long-form capabilities of a group like Earthless.

‘I Get Confused’

Vocals never truly take center stage, but when they do they mostly add to the background draperies provided by the keyboards. As for lyrics, hypnotising chanting mantras which constructs by way of repetition, once again pushes a tribal sense of style to the tracks and sound.

What might surprise ears here are the dance-y qualities to the tracks that subtly meander in every now and then, demonstrating how non-genre-plussed this collaboration is when it comes to writing songs, as well as a nod to the wackiness of Death To Giants.

Overall, this EP requires attention. It’s multi-layered with ideas, thoughts and moods, some more refined than others, and demands to be experienced in the present. It can be dark, but never shies away from breaking the spell. Depending on your level of patience, Death To Ponies might be tough to swallow for some, but as an experimental piece of psyche-rock and art, it’s not half bad.

Death To Ponies (小马之死)Death To Ponies, a multinational collaboration between Death To Giants and Acid Pony Club in Shanghai presents a psych-rock album that's not half bad.Swine WaterWritten by: Chris CilliersDate Published: 11/10/2013Death To Ponies, a multinational collaboration between Death To Giants and Acid Pony Club in Shanghai presents a psych-rock album that's not half bad.6 / 10 stars

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