Pony is an established rock band that has straddled pop-rock and experimental rock for years. Their first full album in 2008 was classic- and pop-rock oriented, but their 2012 EP, Little Apartment, was more closely related to Brit-rock and “lo-fi disco,” as they describe in their Facebook page. They are convincing performers and know how to have fun with their music. Their recently released full album, I Don’t Want To Open The Window To The Outside World, reveals a completely new side of them.
This album is like nothing I’ve heard before and is difficult to categorize. The most basic genre label I could give it would be psychedelic rock, but it flows back and forth between trip-hop, disco, pop, ambient, and more. It’s a wild, totally fresh sound that reveals Pony’s proficiency beyond rock music.
I get the sense that Pony’s composing process in this album is instinctual and spontaneous. They throw in different sounds or styles freely and explore them in the way that feels best to them. At the same time, they are focused on continuously deepening the album’s dominant mood: dark, hazy, sleek, and evocative of surreal images.
The album opens in a dreamworld with “Ocean Song,” a gorgeous ambient piece. All the muted colors give the impression of an ocean, as if you’re listening to music from the outside world while underwater. The percussion and synths push and pull gently like the rhythm of waves.
This is the most soft-edged track on the album; Pony continues this ambient route, particularly in the vocal style, but they embellish it with vocal lines and characteristics from different genres. Two particularly impressive tracks in this category are “Days Of Being Wild” and “Drunken Boat.” They have a wider and darker color palette but maintain “Ocean Song”‘s softness and stylishness.
As Edward Choi told me, “Days Of Being Wild” is inspired by a film under the same title by Hong Kong film director Wong Kar Wai. The soundtracks in his films frequently use Latin music from the 1950s and 60s. This song’s percussion, bass line, and chord progression mirrors this idiom. While Wong Kar Wai’s films juxtapose this romantic music style with bleak urban landscapes, Pony juxtaposes it with a dark psychedelic lo-fi style. The result is striking.
“Drunken Boat” is equally striking and uses a bed of strings and harp glisses to cast an enchanting haze over the listener. These colors are balanced out by the gentle percussion and the booming bass and guitar sounds. Edward Choi sings in a dreamy, half-asleep voice that camouflages perfectly with the other textures. The song grows sparser and rougher in texture as it goes on.
The other type of song on this album is perkier, peppier, and wake the listeners up from their dreamy haze. These include “Pire,” “Waiting for the Day,” “When Your Love Comes to Grave,” and “Ain’t Nobody.” I particularly appreciate the songs “Waiting for the Day” and “Ain’t Nobody” for their sparse, minimal pop arrangements with lone bouncing synth lines. Not only are they cute, but their perkiness freshens up the reverb-doused majority of the album.
The last type of song is grungy lo-fi rock, because what’s an experimental rock album without some of that? Tracks like “Starfuckers” and “Be My Evil” show off Pony’s crunchy speak-singing and the band’s equally crunchy guitar and bass. I like how the band adds a fresh angle on the lo-fi aesthetic with some disco flavors.
I’m sure the level of experimentation and crossover Pony does with genre in this album is alienating to some of their fans — but it is so worth it. Their method of fusing several influences together is unconventional, but successful. It helps that Pony is a group of convicted and imaginative musicians. Pony inhabit their atmospheres with full conviction and beckon the listeners to soak them in. I’m impressed with how cohesive and easy to listen to Pony’s end product is despite the many musical risks they took.