Bardo Pond: Peace on Venus

If the walking dead could dance, this is the music they would dance to.

Bardo Pond

Peace on Venus

Label: Fire
US Release Date: 2013-10-29
UK Release Date: 2013-10-28

What a great record this is. Philadelphia’s Bardo Pond bring a molten mix of heavily distorted guitars and sludgy bass, swirl it with some tremulous, evocative vocals courtesy of frontwoman Isobel Sollenberger, then throw in a few bits of flute or violin for extra ambience and shake it all together. Tempos tend to be leaden, but this is far from doom metal -- or any kind of metal. Bardo Pond comes off more like a somnambulant folk rock on acid, with the volume turned to 11 and the whole band stoned on cough syrup. It’s loud and awesome and unlike anything else you’re likely to hear this year, but avoid listening to it while operating heavy machinery, or you’re likely to wind up in a ditch somewhere.

Opening track “Kali Yuga Blues” features a fuzzy guitar line sounding something like Crazy Horse at its overdriven best, but without the forward-charging tempo that Neil Young’s band generally brings to the table. The rhythm shuffles forward, breaks off, hesitates, starts again, takes a detour for a while… all while Sollenberger’s wistful croon meanders in and out of the mix, making vague promises that “I think it’s gonna be different this time." I have no idea what this song is about, and it really doesn't matter: the band and vocalist gel perfectly, and the fact that the tune evokes almost uncontrollable waves of sadness is a testament to the singer’s abilities to make a great deal out of very little. At seven-and-a-half minutes, there’s plenty of room for the song to breathe and flow and run its course. When the flutes roll in at around the five-minute mark, contrasting with and complementing the insect-buzz guitar leads, it’s both surprising and utterly fitting. The whole thing is one of the best tunes of the year.

Happily, brilliant as this opening is, the rest of the album is able to hold its own, and a good thing too: with only five tracks ranging from five to 11 minutes, there’s no room for filler. “Taste” and “Fir” both expand on the template set by the opening track, but an even bigger standout is “Chance”. The penultimate tune here, “Chance” is noticeable for its acoustic guitar opening on an album which is otherwise unapologetically plugged in from start to finish, as well as its lack of vocals. As it happens, that acoustic picking is soon subsumed under layers of other sounds, including those Crazy Horse-ish guitars and a wistful flute air, but so engaging is the instrumental work that a listener might not even notice the lack of vocals the first few times around.

This is followed by the album’s final track, another 10-minute-plus number called “Before the Moon”, which brings the album full circle: processed vocals (featuring, I think, tape loops or reverse echo or something of the sort) and lots of straightforward, noisy guitar jamming over a tempo that always sounds on the verge of collapsing under its own weight. If the walking dead could dance, this is the music they would dance to.

Anyone interested in the future of rock and roll -- or, hell, its present -- should run out right now and listen to this album. People have been proclaiming the death of rock for quite some time, including in the pages of this very magazine, but Bardo Pond jams a joyous middle finger at such gloomy assertions. Rock and roll isn’t dead; it’s just morphing into something less familiar, something darker and more beautiful and strange.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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

​'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

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

Ahead of Offa Rex's Newport Folk Festival set, Olivia Chaney talked about the collaboration with the Decemberists.

I was lucky enough to catch two of Offa Rex's performances this past summer, having been instantaneously won over by the lead single and title track from the record, The Queen of Hearts. The melodious harmonium intro on the track is so entrancing, I didn't want to miss their brief tour. The band had only scheduled a few dates due in part to other commitments and perhaps limited by their already busy schedules, the Decemberists are actively touring and had their own festival in the summer while and their friend, "sublime English vocalist" Olivia Chaney, had arrived from across the pond.

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

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