After eight full-length albums, the psych-rock troupe known as Bardo Pond delivers another great befuddled head feast of a (mini) album for you to ponder, grin, panic and dribble over. This three-track release is part of Southern imprint’s Latitudes, which only releases recordings made at Southern Studios, and as such is a nice counterpoint to the similarly scatological yet sunny jam sandwich that was put out recently by Carlton Melton, ‘Photos of Photos.’ This is because they both fall under the expansive psych-rock banner, and take a broadly similar approach, favouring jam-based freedom of expression, meaning that both releases feel very improvised and spontaneous. However, Bardo Pond is arguably a more focused, even gothy in places, maelstrom, with a definite convulsive eye turning the storm within the band’s jams.
They specialise in that sort of psych tune that slowly, imperceptibly intensifies, like a storm, so before you know it, track 1 ‘The Crawl’ is less crawling, more doing a jig around you, as guitars spread a web and Isabelle’s vocals float like an angered but understanding harpie in the distance. The track doesn’t quite hit the highest of highs, but certainly achieves some sort of cathartic, chorus-effect laden nirvana before stopping fairly abruptly.
Track two ‘Side To Side’ is a bit more of a structured ‘song’, coming on like a slightly more shuffling, quaaluded neo-psych take on 70s heathen stoner rock a la Coven or something, with ritualistic, but swooping, vertigo-inducing vocals finishing off the effect.
However, comparisons are like trying to compare olives to some other foodstuff, irrelevant in the case of Bardo Pond, they just stir up their own intoxicating brew, and keep stirring it, until it’s just right. The effect is truly disorientating, but the band keeps a firm grasp throughout, which is doubly impressive as there seems to be little in the way of strict structure going on.
Perhaps the key to the confidence and power they display is partly to do with the fact they have been together for many years, and respond intuitively to each other’s moves, partly because they play off a kind of bluesy template, which does offer classic reference points for rock musicians to jam with impunity, (although this suggests a safeness which Bardo Pond absolutely don’t convey!). Lastly, maybe it’s because as they play (in the genuine, child-like sense of that word, without any strict one, two, three – go! nerves), their confidence, like children playing, just gets stronger by the second. The end product is something that while it may have been a jam all along, actually feels like three ‘pieces,’ the organic-ness only revealing itself when everyone seems slightly wrong-footed by the drummer’s decision to end ‘Side To Side’ equally abruptly to the first track.
The massive, billowing closing track, ‘A Crossing’ would presumably be the perfect accompaniment to a long smoke (I don’t partake nearly as often as I probably should!), and would certainly make the sun come out on even the most dismal day, absolutely languid delayed guitars hanging like a sunset over the song as it wends along. It really reminds me of some tracks from Carlton Melton’s aforementioned album, just beautiful.
The press release says “Bardo Pond are a band who don’t so much let their music wash over you in all its beauty as tangle you up in it to the point where you become completely eclipsed by them.” This is a good summary, although while their perfect balance of fuzz and psych on ‘A Crossing’ does start to eat away at the boundaries between you and the music itself, I reckon despite its charms, you can still feel you’re there within it all, although it might be tough to remember where or when the song started, these are far from bad things!
Scribed by: James Parker