The Natural Lines “The Natural Lines”

Bella Union, 2023

Re-emergence of Matt Pond with a new alias, and a record that glistens and glimmers.

Artwork for The Natural Lines album "The Natural Lines"The debut Natural Lines album sees the return of Matt Pond who with a “PA” added to his name released 14 LPs and numerous EPs between 1998 and 2021. So why the retirement of Matt Pond PA and the adoption of a new moniker? Apparently the reason for it came from the recognition of “a certain nihilism or narcissism” involved in making music. Pond says, “In some ways, you have to get in your own head and I think I went too far with that, with drinking and shutting people out. In something that I believe is collaborative, it’s not helpful.” Pond’s new band certainly appears to be a more collective effort, with a sound he describes as “shared introspective shimmering”. It features amongst others, Chris Hansen, whom Pond has been working with for over 15 years, who plays guitar, bass, keyboard and saxophone, as well as contributing vocals.

The album opens with ‘Monotony’ the beginning of which is reminiscent of The Kinks’ ‘Days’. The second track, ‘No More Tragedies’, is a lesson in anger management. The song sees Pond taking pictures of the licence plates of the cars blocking his parking space at midnight and contemplating throwing a brick through their windscreens. In real life, instead of letting the brick fly, Pond dropped it in the grass and wrote this song. The video features the actor Katie Walsh, best known from Grey’s Anatomy, carrying a brick around. It’s a striking image of remaining in control.

Alex Bell’ appropriately enough commences with the sound of a telephone. It’s a playful song in which Pond is seeking a response from the inventor of the phone. It features some wistful cello playing from Hilary Jones. Fittingly, it’s followed by ‘My Answer’ which channels early 1990s REM, as well as, according to Pond, the influence of Blue Öyster Cult’s ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’, into a cello driven folk rock song. ‘Person Of Interest’ has a Nationalesque feel to it, especially when it culminates in a crescendo of horns. The record comes to an end with ‘Mahwah’ which sees Pond arriving at a possible new beginning in northern New Jersey.

As the Catalan architect and designer, Antoni Gaudí said, “The straight line belongs to Man. The curved line belongs to God.” The Natural Lines are far from straight and this record, with its strings, brass and harmonies edges them closer to heaven.

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