Deep-rooted Virginia band Pontiak have filled their tenth Thrill Jockey release to the brim with heavy barrels of stomping, lunging acid rock. Dialectic of Ignorance fumes with ominous portent but still holds on to the hope of a hopeless romantic.
It has been pointed out before that the Carney brothers are an enterprising trio. From the White Buffalo EP in 2005 up until Innocence in 2014, Pontiak made putting out a new record an annual tradition, barring a brief respite in 2013. In the year following their game-altering Innocence, Lain, Van, and Jennings Carney founded Pen Druid Brewing in Rappahannock County, Virginia.
“The brothers have spent nearly a decade traveling North America and Europe, playing music and experiencing the local beer traditions,” explains the About page on the Pen Druid website. Drinking on tour is just part of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle for most bands, but the Carneys turned it into the foundation for a legitimate business. The demands of starting and running such an operation are surely at least in part responsible for the three-year gap between Innocence and Dialectic of Ignorance—a completely reasonable break for any other band, but uncharacteristic for Pontiak.
Pen Druid obligations also meant a longer recording process, as Dialectic of Ignorance came together piece-by-piece between the start of 2016 through last October (insert your own slow fermentation analogy here). The brothers would jam in their own recording space, Studio A, and then listen back to the sessions while tending to their ales at work the next day. Despite the time it took to come together—or, on the contrary, perhaps because of that gradual ongoing process—the eight songs on Dialectic of Ignorance run almost like one continuous, clanging, psychedelic dirge epic. It sounds like it could have been recorded in one long, dark night.
The printed lyrics that fill the entire inside of the CD booklet from end to end and corner to corner bear that sense of continuity out as well. The band have cited Karl Ove Knausgard as a recent influence, and even those only vaguely familiar with the Norwegian author’s reputation can pick up on the connection. “Tomorrow Is Forgetting” follows a reflective stream of inner monologue broken up by releasing mantras like “I’ve no memory” and “tomorrow is forgotten”. “Youth and Age”, on the other hand, holds on to memory in novelistic detail: “We’ve been up all night / Can you hear the birds calling? / It’s not late enough, a trap of youth and age for longing / We sat on the hillside / It was early when the light caught your hair on fire.”
“Dirtbags”, an increasingly agitated half of conversation, rising blood pressure illustrated by the pounding drums and fried guitar wilding, comes the closest to capturing the kind of frustration with futility that the album’s title suggests. After the accumulation of considerable psychic weight, “We’ve Fucked This Up” tries to slough some of it off at the end: “We laughed at all the ways we might have fucked this up / So we take off our clothes and jump in over our heads / The sun has gone away and risen with the dead / I am lucky again.” Dialectic of Ignorance never fully shifts out of its Blue Ridge Black Sabbath gear, but a little light does peek through.