It was just last year that I randomly heard the delightful little A Demonstration EP from the brother-sister duo of Ponies On Fire. The second release from the group sounded like a batch of songs recorded in livingrooms and kitchens, it was inviting and just begged to be sung along with while you were folding laundry or making up some dinner. Camille and Alexander McGregor are fortunately back again with their newest effort, a 14-track release on the small DIY Asaurus CDR label.
As with other Asaurus releases that I've seen, Ponies On Fire is immaculate in design and despite not being an actual silver CD, seems like it should definitely be more than five dollars. The nicely designed, charming sleeve actually works just about perfectly with the music on it as well. Once again, the duo has created a nice batch of songs, this time even more varied than on their last EP. The disc opens with "Joe" and finds Camille floating reverbed vocals over strummed acoustic guitar and organ, and the mysterious lyrics (including mentions of "one dollar a secret" and "seven pistols pointed at your head") fit the slightly darker than normal tone of the track. "Part One" follows and at forty seconds feels like more of an introduction for "Little Boy Lost" than anything else. The latter track is the most dense the group has ever done, with organs, piano, bass, and drums all blending together into a haze while the duo adds harmonized vocals.
From there, they go from jaunty folk ("Too Many Birds") to southwestern-inspired "Fairy In My House" and even narcotic pop on "Slow Down Sugar," which veers between spectral Mazzy Star-esque moments and weird toy-piano psych bursts. At times, the album seems to veer off course a bit, as on the short "Piano Interlude," which isn't really needed to break up an album that's under forty minutes anyway. On "Aviary," the group stretches things out to well over five minutes and includes field recordings, muddled vocals, and all kinds of strange instrumentation, but it never really manages to rise above a marginal experiment. The group is better when they strip things down, as on the great "Mimi Come Home" and the full-bodied reworking of "Gov't Brand #2" (from A Demonstration EP). Doesn't quite stand up to the invigorating EP, but it's another excellent batch of songs from the small group.