The first time I read about Pocahaunted, the particular blog post I was reading referenced them as “the Olsen twins of drone.” From that line on, it was hook, line and sinker.
Amanda and Bethany have put out more than a handful of records, CDs and cassettes over the past few years, all full of psychedelic drone, clanging guitars, tribal drums and chanted vocals. Early records like Moccassinging and Bearskin Rug depended on Bethany’s former studying of native anthropology. A lot of their output has been released on the stellar label Not Not Fun (co-run by Amanda and her husband, Robedoor), an LA-area home to releases by the likes of Charalambides, Yellow Swans, Raccoo-oo-oon and Robedoor. They’ve got friends in the Smell scene, like No Age and HEALTH. Thurston Moore picked Pocahaunted to open a slate of shows.
All of these connections show up in spades in their music. As time passes, the dependency on Native American spiritual sounds has become more and more a sidenote, rather than a shtick to rely on. And Chains may be the epitome of their growth. Printed on psych-tastic clear yellow vinyl, they’ve been quoted as wanting the album to sound like “fucked up Tom Tom Club palm tree pop.” Also, they say it’s somewhere between “drugged funk, and Fleetwood Mac.” But, instead of being a lot of self-aggrandizing PR-speak, these descriptions are pretty darn accurate.
Drummers Josh Klinghoffer and Bobb Bruno (who also produced the platter) help separate this album from other Pocahaunted releases. Where other albums reveled in repetitive drum figures, Klinghofffer and Bruno spatter swaths of cymbal and snare hits throughout, switching between dub, latin and tropicalia rhythms instead of droning on one beat for an entire album.
Side A is composed of “The Weight” and “No More Women”. While bearing the same title as The Band’s 1968 gem, the first track is not, at least by any easy-to-see measurement, a cover. Instead, chanted “Hey oh!” with one thousand layers of reverb fall over a slow feedback drone, a lone guitar teetering along with an epic drumbeat. “No More Women” focuses on an active yet laid-back drumbeat, slapped snare hits and a near-swing hi-hat fill.
Side B takes off from there, finding the drone queens at their absolute best. The vocals in “Oh Woe” are nothing short of tragic, wailing for some awful loss. Bethany’s majestic, grandiose howl skipping octaves at will, while Amanda’s vocals reign in a fluid, wavelike guitar scream. The title track may be the best bit of music the duo has put out. The vocals are so emotive that you never really notice that there aren’t any identifiable lyrics. “Aaah”s and “yeah”s are transformed into something more expressive than any poem or lyric.
Pocahaunted have always been great at producing mesmerizing drones, whoops of music that hit you like a buffeting wind through a dark forest. On Chains, though, the duo finds a new strength in drawing people in that may not already be interested in drone. The rhythm is always there, sunk underneath layers of psychedelic muck, the two perfectly flowing at the same pace.