Aug 26, 2018

Sundaze 1834

Hello, psychedelics can enable a broad and paradoxical spectrum of linguistic phenomena from the unspeakability of mystical experience to the eloquence of the songs of the shaman or curandera. Interior dialogues with the Other, whether framed as the voice of the Logos, an alien download, or communion with ancestors and spirits, are relatively common. Sentient visual languages are encountered, their forms unrelated to the representation of speech in natural language writing systems. And then there are the Bardo experiences......

Today's Artists are an American psychedelic rock band formed in 1991, and who are currently signed to London-based label Fire Records. Their music is often classified as space rock, acid rock, post-rock, shoegazing, noise or psychedelic rock. Some album titles have been derived from the names of esoteric psychedelic substances. Their sound has been likened to Pink Floyd, Spacemen 3 and My Bloody Valentine amongst others. .....N'Joy

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Bardo Pond was the flagship band of Philly's "Psychedelphia" space rock movement, which also included the likes of Aspera, Asteroid No. 4, the Azusa Plane, and tangentially the Lilys. Explicitly drug-inspired -- their titles were filled with obscure references to psychedelics -- they favored lengthy, deliberate sound explorations filled with all the hallmarks of modern-day space rock: droning guitars, thick distortion, feedback, reverb, and washes of white noise. Hints of blues structure often cropped up, but Bardo Pond's earliest roots lay with avant-garde noisemakers from the realm of free jazz and from New York's no wave movement and downtown Knitting Factory scene. As their musicianship improved, the band gradually incorporated more traditional influences, but maintained their affinity for the outer fringes of music. Thus, their brand of space rock echoed not just genre staples like Hawkwind and Pink Floyd, but jam-happy Krautrockers (Amon Düül, Popol Vuh, Ash Ra Tempel, Guru Guru) and experimental indie heroes (Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, and especially Spacemen 3). With a steady stream of releases on Matador, the band stuck around long enough to draw comparisons to the spacier, noisier contingent of post-rockers, like Mogwai and Flying Saucer Attack.

Bardo Pond was formed in Philadelphia in 1989 by guitar-playing brothers Michael and John Gibbons, who'd long had an interest in making free-form noise, though they didn't pick up non-percussion instruments until attending art school in their twenties. Their first collaborator was guitarist Clint Takeda, a friend of Michael's who shared their enthusiasm for free music. Over the next two years, the band held twice-weekly jam sessions in their living room. At first, their aesthetic was one of naïve, unfettered freedom, but they slowly grew convinced of the need for some semblance of structure and proper instrumental technique. Takeda christened the band Bardo Pond in 1991, after a location described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. By that time, they'd picked up new members in vocalist/flute player Isobel Sollenberger and drummer Bob Sentz, both art academy classmates of the Gibbons brothers.

Over 1992-1993, Bardo Pond issued five self-released cassettes. No Hashish No Change Money No Saki Saki got remastered and rereleased in 2009 Toward the end of that run, Sentz quit the band to concentrate on his painting, and was replaced by Joe Culver. Takeda had begun to drift away from the band after graduation, moving first to New York and then to Seattle, which gave Michael Gibbons a chance to develop his guitar playing further. The band came to the attention of the small, singles-oriented Compulsiv label, and issued their first proper 7", "Die Easy" b/w "Apple Eye," in early 1994; another one, "Trip Fuck" b/w "Hummingbird Mountain," arrived not long after on the Drunken Fish imprint. A third single, "Dragonfly" b/w "Blues Tune," was out by the end of the year, and the group began work on its full-length debut for Drunken Fish. Clint Takeda, who'd kept in touch with the band, decided he wanted to return, and was brought back into the fold as the full-time bassist.

Bardo Pond issued its first album, Bufo Alvarius Amen 29:15, in early 1995; its title was taken from the scientific name for the notorious hallucinogenic toad found in the western U.S. The CD version appended "Amen 29:15," a near-half-hour jam that marked Takeda's recorded debut with the band. Later that year, Compulsiv released a CD EP of leftover tracks called Big Laughing Jym. Bufo Alvarius sparked the interest of Matador Records, which signed Bardo Pond and issued their breakthrough sophomore effort, Amanita, in 1996. Titled after a little-known hallucinogen from India, the album won critical praise and substantially heightened the band's profile, as did their increasingly improvisational live shows.

1997's Lapsed was a leaner, more focused effort that refined and sharpened Bardo Pond's sound; it too was greeted enthusiastically, with many fans still ranking it as the group's finest effort. That same year, the quintet's side project with New Zealand guitarist Roy Montgomery, Hash Jar Tempo, saw the release of the first of two albums; titled Well Oiled, it had been recorded during a 1995 jam session, and appeared on Drunken Fish. The results of another jam session, this one from 1998, were issued a year later as Under Glass. Bardo Pond itself also returned in 1999 with Set and Setting, which had second drummer Ed Farnsworth beginning to assume some of new family man Culver's duties. It also found Sollenberger debuting her new second instrument, violin.

2000 saw the band embarking on several side ventures from Matador; there was a 10" limited-edition EP on Three Lobed called Slab, which featured outtakes from the Set and Setting sessions, and they also inaugurated a series of self-released CD-Rs (sold through their website and on tours) with Vol. I. Like its followers, Vol. I was a collection of improvisational jams and home-studio outtakes. The band returned with its fourth Matador album, Dilate, in 2001; by now, Culver had officially retired from the band, leaving Farnsworth as the full-time drummer. A tour with Mogwai followed in support that spring, and Matador issued a small-scale EP culling performances from both bands. Three more volumes in the Bardo Pond CD-R series followed over 2002-2003, as well as another EP for Three Lobed, 2002's Purposeful Availment. In the meantime, Bardo Pond and Matador abruptly parted ways; after playing the All Tomorrow's Parties festival, the band signed with its spin-off label of the same name, and debuted with the full-length On the Ellipse in 2003. 2005 saw a wider release of the material from the CD-R series in Selections, Vols. 1-4, a two-disc collection of highlights. Ticket Crystals, a mellower, more atmospheric work, arrived the following year.

In 2012, the band issued Yntra, a three-song EP recorded for Southern Records spin-off label Latitudes while the band was on a stopover in London. They issued the two-track covers 12" Rise Above It All on Record Store Day in April of 2013, featuring readings of Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain" and Pharoah Sanders' "The Creator Has a Master Plan." This was followed by the full-length Peace on Venus in October. Refulgo, a double LP compilation of tracks recorded prior to the release of Bufo Alvarius, appeared on Three Lobed in 2014. Two more Record Store Day EPs, Looking for Another Place and Is There a Heaven?, respectively appeared in 2014 and 2015, and were compiled on the triple-CD Record Store Day Trilogy. Also in 2015, the group shared a split-LP with Yo La Tengo as part of Three Lobed's Parallelogram series. In 2016, Bardo Pond collaborated with Acid Mothers Temple and Guru Guru, resulting in double-LP Acid Guru Pond. Bardo Pond's full-length Under the Pines followed in 2017, and Volume 8 appeared in 2018.


The members of Bardo Pond also operate a number of side projects.

500 mg is Michael Gibbons' solo project.

Alasehir is a psychedelic/stoner rock trio featuring Michael Gibbons, John Gibbons and Jason Kourkounis.

Alumbrados produces psychedelic folk/drone music and consists of Michael Gibbons, John Gibbons, Michael Zanghi and Aaron Igler.

Prairie Dog Flesh is more improvisational and rearranges the members of Bardo Pond with Takeda on vocals.

Hash Jar Tempo is a collaboration between Bardo Pond and Roy Montgomery. A pun on Ash Ra Tempel, this project resulted from two "marathon jam/recording sessions" between the two parties and produced two albums: Well Oiled (released in 1997, recorded in 1995) and Under Glass (released in 1999, recorded in 1998).

LSD Pond is a collaboration between Bardo Pond and Japanese psychedelic rock band LSD March. A self-titled album was released in 2008 and contains two discs with live recordings of two nights of jamming.

Moon Phantoms is a collaboration between Bardo Pond and Japanese psychedelic rock band Suishou No Fune. Their self-titled album was released in 2009.

Third Troll features Michael and John Gibbons (guitars), Sollenberger (flute), and includes Kevin Moist (saxophone) and Aaron Igler (synths).

Baikal conducts free form psych experiments. The band consists of John Gibbons, Michael Gibbons, Clint Takeda and Jason Kourkonis. They have released a self-titled album on Important Records.

Vapour Theories is a duo of Michael and John Gibbons. They have released two albums: 'Decant' (self-released), and 'Joint Chiefs' (The Lotus Sound).

Jason Kourkounis participated as drummer 72 in the Boredoms' 77 Boadrum performance which occurred on July 7, 2007, at the Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park in Brooklyn, New York. He is also currently in Hot Snakes and The Night Marchers, and previously played drums for The Delta 72, The Burning Brides, and Mule (band).

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The broken-down blues of Bardo Pond might just alter the world. The cilia-pulling strains of Set and Setting become utterly more infectious with each new spin. It's as though Bardo Pond is tugging the earth into their psychedelic orbit without anyone's knowledge or consent. The band is at their most effective on instrumental cuts like "Datura" and the violin-based "Cross Current." Here, sounds get their most stretched out and visual. On the whole, Set and Setting is another cohesive step forward, a slow parade of seductive experimentation and noise that crawls on rock's foundation and doesn't care what anyone thinks. This description could also apply to some of Sonic Youth's better music. Imagine then, Sonic Youth strewn across the desert on blotter acid; Set and Setting probably sounds something like that.

Bardo Pond - Set And Setting (flac  323mb)

01 Walking Stick Man 11:01
02 This Time (So Fucked) 4:00
03 Datura 8:03
04 Again 6:33
05 Lull 2:16
06 Cross Current 6:36
07 Crawl Away 9:26
08 #3 1:15

Bardo Pond - Set And Setting  (ogg 104mb)

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On its sixth album, Dilate, Bardo Pond cuts through the dense, smoky haze of Set and Setting and Lapsed to deliver its most refined collection to date. Even the title's drug reference (the band's first three releases were named after various mind-altering toads and mushrooms) is subtler, yet more evocative. Bardo Pond's roaring guitars, trippy flutes, and pummeling drums are all still in place, but now the group uses them sparingly instead of in heroic doses. Indeed, the album's best moments mix equally vast amounts of noise and space, giving Dilate an appropriately expansive feel. Isobel Sollenberger's double-tracked vocals take the lead on "Sunrise" and "Inside," a pair of spacy epics that hover around the edges of pop before veering into guitar maelstroms. The album also celebrates the prettier, emotional side of Bardo Pond's music, which the group has often obscured with clouds of distortion. A melancholy beauty permeates the string-driven instrumental "Two Planes" as well as rolling, folk-meets-fuzz ballads like "Aphasia" and "Favorite Uncle." These songs and Dilate's centerpiece, "Despite the Roar" (which shimmers like heat distortion before exploding into a trippy climax after five and half minutes), suggest vulnerability in a gauzy, abstract way that's more affecting than directly stating it. But the album also indulges Bardo Pond's interest in textures, as the Eastern-inspired motifs of "Swig" and subtle guitar washes and backward snares of "Hum" prove. However, it wouldn't be a Bardo Pond album without some glorious guitar excesses, and Dilate delivers with the heavy, wittily named "Lb.," a kinetic piece of stoner rock more in keeping with the group's two previous efforts. And though it's over 11 minutes long, the album closer "Ganges" manages to keep its mix of crunchy riffs and droning strings inventive throughout. Likewise, Dilate proves that the members of Bardo Pond keep finding ways to reinvent their sound, surpassing themselves each time they do.

Bardo Pond - Dilate  (flac 432mb)

01 Two Planes 7:26
02 Sunrise 5:26
03 Inside 11:43
04 Aphasia 6:02
05 Favorite Uncle 5:58
06 Swig 4:23
07 Despite The Roar 7:08
08 Lb. 8:31
09 Hum 3:43
10 Ganges 11:23

Bardo Pond - Dilate   (ogg 167mb)

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Another triumph, Bardo Pond's On the Ellipse proves that the band doesn't have to drastically change their music from album to album to keep it sounding fresh. Much like their former labelmates Mogwai, they continue to top themselves even if they're no longer among the most fashionable vanguard of underground rock. This album, Bardo Pond's sixth proper full-length, manages to be more abstract than 2001's Dilate, but it's just as accessible as that album, emphasizing the beauty of Isobel Sollenberger's vocals and flutes, as well as the restrained power of the band's formidable guitars and rhythm section. On the Ellipse is a much moodier experience, however, with most of its six songs hovering on the edge of reflective sadness and something darker. The outstanding album opener "JD" is an instant career highlight. Beginning with a relentless drone that switches between harsh and beautiful as it unfurls, the song lures the listener with five minutes of gentle acoustic guitars and Sollenberger's dreamy, brooding singing before unleashing a quintessentially Bardo Pond onslaught of distortion and drums. It's true that this description applies to most of the album -- and, indeed, most of the band's catalog -- but Pond remains the master of finding different ways to use extreme dynamics. "Dom's Lament" subtly shifts from quiet to loud while exploring the textures of its silken flutes, craggy guitars, and the quietly crisp drumming that holds it all together. The radiant, vaguely Indian "Test" floats on dense clouds of guitars and distant but powerful drums, lending it a beautiful but somewhat apocalyptic feel. "Every Man," a seven-minute epic, follows the more usual subdued brooding/slow-burning noise formula of the band's work, but the spare loveliness of its quiet sections and the washes of flutes in its louder parts reaffirm that nobody does stoned melancholy better than Pond. While the last third of On the Ellipse isn't as strong as the rest of the album, the post-modern hippie atmospherics of "Walking Clouds" and the dense, dour "Nights of Frogs" -- which recalls the band's Lapsed-era work -- don't detract from its hypnotic pull. While this album isn't radically different from the rest of Pond's work, the fact that it offers more of their compelling, challenging music is reason enough to celebrate it.

Bardo Pond - On The Ellipse  (flac 351mb)

01 JD 7:25
02 Every Man 9:00
03 Dom's Lament 6:45
04 Test 9:51
05 Walking Clouds 7:13
06 Night Of Frogs 12:57

Bardo Pond - On The Ellipse   (ogg 128mb)

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Hip-hop has mixtapes while modern psychedelia has the limited-edition CD-ROM release -- the same principle applies, though, in terms of getting music out there, beyond "official" efforts as such. Bardo Pond are up through six collections of experiments and jams as of mid-2005, with Selections, Vol. 1-4 being just that, a sampling of the first four of these often-wonderful releases. Given that Bardo Pond's raisons d'être are indeed long improvisations recorded as they happen, it's not entirely a sudden steering away in style, but this two-disc collection generally emphasizes the strictly musical side of the band, with Isobel Sollenberger contributing only fragmentary lyrics or gentle croons on the singing front (her flute work is often prominent, in contrast). Where she does come more to the fore, as with "E Dub," she can provide an almost startling focus to the compositions, but she is more content here to go with the flow, or rather, to be carried along with it. Starting with the sample-laden, slow-and-low "Sit Sleep," Selections, Vol. 1-4 touches on everything from (relatively) short edits to extremely long, detailed jams. If anything, the collection shows that far from simply having a one-note approach, the quintet can take basic principles and use them to test out a variety of approaches towards doing one's brain in, from monstrous demi-metal riffs to near-minimalist flow and hum. The ten-minute "Before," for instance, relies on an ominous mantra/melody crossed with violent solos and steady, increasingly forceful drumming, while "Montana Sacra" has its core drone acting as a base for a series of squalling if still restrained acid rock solos, a continual trading off. "Lomand" probably shows the most variety over its own length, from majestic descending riffs and drones to seemingly endless drift.

Bardo Pond - Selections - Volumes I-II (flac  361mb)

01 Sit Sleep 8:25
02 Cymbals 7:59
03 Before 10:07
04 Precious Metal 7:53
05 Alien Heat 9:21
06 Montana Sacra 15:40
07 Heaven 4:34

Bardo Pond - Selections - Volumes I-II  (ogg 128mb)


Bardo Pond - Selections - Volumes III-IV (flac  396mb)

08 E Dub 9:00
09 Tanked 4:56
10 Lomand 15:59
11 Take What You Need 5:53
12 New Drunks 9:18
13 Marmada 19:24
14 Pangolin Dance 2:59

Bardo Pond - Selections - Volumes III-IV  (ogg 134mb)

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rho, Thanks very much for all the Bardo Pond. Used to buy their records years ago after reading about them in Ptolemaic Terrascope. Your kindly post has allowed me to plug a few gaps. Cheers, tf