Music

Bardo Pond: Bardo Pond

Though this is Bardo Pond's first release on Fire Records, that’s really the only thing new about this album, which finds the band spacing out in its normal manner.


Bardo Pond

Bardo Pond

Label: Fire
US Release Date: 2010-12-06
UK Release Date: 2010-12-06
Label Website
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

After 20 years of slow droney psychedelics, Bardo Pond has chosen to name its new album simply, after itself: Bardo Pond. And if that name means anything to you, then you know what to expect. Perhaps the band self-titled the album in order to recognize that, at this point, it is an institution, a sound, a known quantity. Though this is the first release on Fire Records, that’s really the only thing new about this album, which finds the band spacing out in its normal manner.

Bardo Pond is known for its drug referencing titles. But the band has done so much for simulating the trip experience perhaps “Bardo Pond” has become a drug reference in its own right. The approach on this album is the same as usual: the Gibbons brothers find a good dual guitar riff -- one playing a lead, one texturing underneath -- and repeat for at least five minutes over Jason Kourkounis’s shuffling and heavy drums, Clint Takeda’s rumbling bass, and Isobel Sollenberger’s moaning vocals (or sometimes silly flute).

It’s not a bad album, but it’s also not the band’s best. The energy of earlier efforts, like the stellar Amanita seems absent. However, Bardo Pond always has a strange energy. What they do so well is make psychedelic drone catchy: the riff that repeats and bowls you over into a contagiously hazy state. If anything, the songs on the new album have less catchy riffs, and thus have a harder time snagging you for the drone. This could be due to the fact that only one of these songs is less than seven minutes.

Bardo Pond typically plays long songs, but the trend seems to be going in the direction of longer and freer jam sessions, like the multivolume self-released CDRs the band has put out over the last few years. The centerpiece of this album, then, is a twenty-one minute long song, “Undone”, and let’s just say that center cannot hold. This song just doesn’t quite cut it. The main issue is that way up front in the mix is a repetitive high-pitched guitar playing notes backwards that doesn’t really do anything interesting except perhaps that it starts to sound like a dying elephant.

Now it’s okay for a jam to take it’s time, but on this track the band doesn’t hit its stride until the halfway mark -- and by then it’s too late. At that point, the drums find a more steady beat, rather than a rolling thunder; the vocals get louder, yet still not above a tired moan; and the “rhythm” guitar grows in the mix, rounding out the sound. The lead guitar thickens into a wah-wah wall: this is what Bardo Pond does well.

At least the band knew to follow this track with the most thrilling one on the album: “Cracker Wrist", which has a needly and paranoid riff that repeats for five minutes, growing in intensity. Then the song stops and regroups as an imperial, heavy, break down, with Isobel wailing over everything like a more messed up Grace Slick. What lacked on “Undone”, that inner necessity that makes droney music addictive, is in full force here.

Bardo Pond’s psychedelics may produce a contact high, but it all depends on the right mix of song and free form repetition. Maybe droning past the 11-minute mark is too much; there’s a point beyond which a new chord or some unexpected notes and melodies might reinvigorate the sound. Bardo Pond isn’t innovative; the improvisation is tightly reined, not free, and ultimately not so interesting. The interest lays in the repetition, which still must be compelling.

Bardo Pond’s songs have a simple one-part structure upon which they slab layers of fuzz and heaviness so that what begins as a catchy song, lulls you into a hallucinogenic sleep. Bardo Pond has a good amount of acoustic elements, which lighten up the touch a little bit and even bring out an Americana influence. This lighter sound may account for the more tired feel of this album, but there are still some compelling rockers, like “Dont Know About You,” which manages to march in a Sabbath-y way beat by beat, despite sounding like its falling down on its feet. In the end, this album’s highs are mostly flashbacks. The repetition in a song is one thing; but from album to album, it gets a little boring. I want a new drug.

6

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image