Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bardo Pond Hides Some Gems Inside A Self-Titled LP

Bardo PondThe broken down deconstructionism that accompanies every Bardo Pond release isn't for everyone or even all the time. But for anyone looking to hear a psychedelic rock experience like many bands perform on stage but never in the studio, Bardo Pond has been hard to pass up over the last two decades.

Currently touring with Michael Gibbons (guitar), John Gibbons (guitar), Isobel Sollenberger (flute and vocals), Clint Takeda (bass), Ed Farnsworth (drums), and Aaron Igler (keys) the band is best known for delivering an experience with stretched out instrumentals and musical tracks, sometimes that carry on for as long as 22 minutes. One song. Not every track is like that.

Although the band's hometown is Philadelphia, their latest self-titled LP comes from Fire Records (U.K.), which is one of the few times the band hasn't named the album after something related to hallucinogenics. The reason, at least by Fire Records' account, is the band considers it a distillation.

"Two decades of playing together have sandblasted away everything unessential and left us with what we have here."

For the average listener, there isn't much of a difference. There are ample guitar distortions and wailing vocals that some people liken to a chaotic haze. At the same time, there are moments within all the songs when hedonism proves its point.

If pleasure is the only intrinsic good, then Bardo Pond have eliminated the pain by signing with the right label that wants them to do what they do best. They know what they like to play and play it with a denseness that sticks to your bones.

The best of the bunch in the self-titled release strikes surprisingly close to something shorter for music pursuers to sink their teeth into. The haunting song Don't Know About You brings Sollenberger much more forward than many Bardo Pond songs, as captured by one fan in this video (which also includes a snip from Stars Behind You).

Other keepers within the hour-long album include Cracker Wrist and The Stars Behind. Undone is something to behold for the sheer length alone, but it is best sampled after dipping a toe in the Bardo Pond experience since you have to buy the album to claim the 21-minute track. You can always complete the album after trying Don't Know About You and something else first.

Joining Bardo Pond on this art-infused rock experiment are Jeremiah Misfeldt (farfisa) and Dan Baltzer (harp). If you do try the entire album, prepare yourself for swings back and forth from slow-building burns of enjoyment to annoying itches that can't be scratched.

Bardo Pond Rips A Self-Titled Release For A 2.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Confining the review to the single song would have cranked up the rating as high as 6.8. Cracker Wrist deserves something better too. But as an album, there comes a point when it wears too heavy for its own good.

Case in point, Just Once wants to be liked, but the chosen vocal delivery with the right lyrics detract more than it embraces, especially in the opening two minutes. After that, it gets better and better but you have to wait for it.

Bardo Pond is available on iTunes. You can also find the group's self-titled release on Amazon.
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