Bardo Pond get half of their name from a reference to some aquatic body in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. When you hear BP, you get the feeling that water from said river or lake could give you a buzz just looking at it. Ingesting the stuff probably brings on delusions of a living mass of sludge that coats your body and puts you in contact with the opiate centers of every sentient being around you. Sorta like being Swamp Thing on DMT, I suppose.
This is one dirty album, and wonderfully so at that. Guitars are so thoroughly caked in distortion that Sabbath and the Valentines seem like they’ve been playing cotton gins all these years in comparison. Bardo Pond doesn’t just evoke heavy rock or shoegaze sensations though, they do something in between and much better. “Tommy Gun Angel” makes one giddy to hear it, with all that sludge and Isobel Sollenbarger’s blissed out cooing. We’re approaching the possibility of what lovesliescrushing might sound like with a rhythm section.
But then the Gibbons brothers (Michael and John, no Billy here) bring us firmly back down to Earth, Mississippi, specifically. “Pick My Brain” is a thoroughly eviscerated blues trudge that has our angel of the last song sounding like some female Marlin Brando inviting us to come scratch the sexiest scab ever. The euphoria comes back in this song when moaned backing vocals evoke India, and a howling, chaotic lead sneezes out “Ash Ra Who?”
Bardo Pond was one of the best live bands I saw in all of 1998. “T.G.A.,” and “Green Man” are both songs I remember vividly from that night. The latter was a cycling progression that built up a head of kosmiche’ steam that probably breaks some law of physics.
“Flux” is another song on this disk and from that night, I’ll never forget. In the late ’70s, when Jimmy Carter came back from a tour of Russia in a arms-race induced panic, he should have had the boys at Los Alamos cook up this tune, rather than the neutron bomb.
“Aldrin” takes us nowhere in the best possible way, a 14 minute experiment in tense status that can thoroughly mesmerize both a live crowd or not-so captive audience at home. There, I’ve done it, I’ve written about Bardo Pond, and haven’t said anything about the huge crush I have on Isobel. Almost.
Written by Pearson Greer.