PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Salvia Plath: The Bardo Story

Michael Collins, of Salvia Plath.

An appealing shot of homespun psychedelia, from the artist formerly known as Run DMT.

Salvia Plath

The Bardo Story

Label: Domino
US Release Date: 2013-07-09
UK Release Date: 2013-07-15

Let’s get this out of the way first. Salvia Plath, the recording moniker of Baltimore artist Michael Collins, is rather a silly band name. Run DMT, the name he previously used before the other Run DMT, a dubstep outfit, threatened him with a lawsuit, is also dumb. Run DMT’s recorded output included Bong Voyage, Get Ripped or Die Trying, and, most recently, Dreams. Each of these titles calls to mind a ramshackle sort of psychedelia, goofy but not novelty music, entirely at home on the schedule for a college open mic--or an opening bill for the Butthole Surfers a generation or two ago. That’s not altogether inaccurate. With The Bardo Story, a 32-minute weed-addled haze, it’s pretty much what you get.

That Collins has developed a knack for speedy psych-pop melodies only helps matters, naturally. With lushly multitracked backing harmonies and a circular acoustic progression, “Phased” conjures the lighter side of the Elephant 6 collective; the pretty, rollicking “This American Life” is even better, galvanized by equally sweet “ah” vocals, handclaps, wah-wah accompaniment, and one of Collins’ most confident lead vocals to date. With sleeker production, it’d be fodder for a fast food commercial--but who wants that? (Not Collins, I don’t think.)

On most other tracks, Collins’ voice -- when employed at all -- arrives fuzzy and worn, as if sung through a wool sweater in a tile-floored bathroom. This suits “Salvia Plath”, a lazily stoned Ariel Pink homage, fairly well, though lethargic numbers like the Eastern-tinged “Bardo States” and the misnomer “Hidden Track” could do with a shot of adrenaline. Better is “Stranded”, an old-timey whistling-and-humming dispatch from a ‘60s spaghetti western soundtrack; the '60s is the era “House of Leaves”, a lazily strummed slice of guitar-pop, also immediately conjures.

Roughly a third of Bardo Story is taken up by Collins' penchant for drifting sonic experiments and interludes. Some are better than others. “Last Night At The Theatre” combines spidery guitar pitches with shaky keyboards for what sounds like a low-budget cartoon soundtrack, while the aforementioned “Stranded”, a wordless and eerie detour, is one of the album’s best. But “Pondering” drags along for what seems like forever (okay, three minutes) on ocean effects and a tremolo bar, and “Carly’s Theme”, with its organ riff and vocal wails, leaves little more impression.

The Bardo Story is an appealing shot of homespun psychedelia. With a producer, maybe Collins could be great. Or maybe it’d ruin him. I’m not sure.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.