The first song on Bardo Pond’s 1997 album Lapsed, “Tommy Gun Angel,” is one of my favorites, the perfect combination of melody and chaos. After seeing their live show, I was surprised how much they sometimes sounded like Black Sabbath. Unlike Ozzy’s piercing shriek on such favorite Sab tracks as “Sweet Leaf” and “Into the Void,” Bardo Bond’s Isobel Sollenberger’s ethereal vocals (and flute playing) contrast terrifically with the bar-rock riffs heaped under layers of distortion and feedback.
On Set and Setting, Bardo Pond continue to create sounds that beg to be listened to in a rowboat on the moors in England. The swampy, sludgy quality of the rhythm section, meshed with the fluidity of the feedback (melodic in itself), work for this band where it might hamper a lesser group. To call this medieval stoner rock is a bit of an overstatement. True, this could be your soundtrack to hazy, smoke-filled weekends of laying around the basement examining and articulating the gatefold sleeve of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti, but the record alternated between good and bad trips. “This Time (So Fucked)” is the “Tommy Gun Angel” of this record, lush and catchy yet jagged and acidic, while “Again” is a track that I wouldn’t want to listen to alone, conjuring up images of the basement in my parent’s house, where I would run up the stairs afraid of Ozzy Osbourne jumping out of the shadows and attacking me, while “Planet Caravan” played quietly in the background.
Continuing in their tradition of weird and simple layout, Bardo Pond include some pseudo-hallucinatory images no doubt meant to evoke a peyote-induced vision of rock ‘n’ roll. Set and Setting is a record that’s both scary and seductive simultaneously.