Bardo Pond - "Set And Setting"
(Matador 1999, OLE 364-2)
From Aural Innovations #8 (October 1999)
I've been a bit critical of Bardo Pond in the past for drilling out endless wall of sound drones in which I can't distinguish any of the instrumentation. On "Set And Setting" I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Bardo's have delivered an impressive set of heavy spaced-out psychedelia that is still firmly in the drone realm.
The opening track, "Walking Stick Man" sets the tone with a heavy Hendrix sonic wall of drone. The dual guitars are actually distinguishable from one another making this much more appealing than Bardo Pond music I've heard before. The music is played at a drugged pace developing only slightly around a single riff. The similarities to late 60's/early 70's heavy psych rock and stoner rock á la Hendrix (though without the guitar proficiency) and early Black Sabbath is striking. There are moments in this 11-minute tune where we get brief bits of varied guitar excursions but overall it just blasts its way along in a linear fashion with Isobel's tortured vocals whining incomprehensible lyrics.
"Datura" is one of my favorite tracks featuring more layers of texture making for added variety and resulting in a gorgeous fuzzed out space trip. Elements of early exploratory Krautrock are present making this quite an interesting ride. Another strong track is "Crawl Away" which has the heavy stoner feel of "Walking Stick Man", but with more of the variety heard on "Datura" and some of the freakiest spaced out guitars on the disc. "This Time (So Fucked)" is an interesting tune with a guitar sound and melody (yes, there's actually a melody) which reminded me of a Bevis Frond song, though of course the wall of sound is heavier and Isobel's vocals represent anguish in place of Nick Saloman's passion. And "Cross Current" caught my attention with its trancey violin intro that is joined by a massive guitar assault slowly fading in as the violin continues its melody in the background.
Overall, I'm much closer to being a Bardo Pond fan than I had been. I still think the incessant jamming around single themes with limited variation gets a bit tiring, but there's no questioning the beauty of the heavily dosed acid guitars on this disc.
Available through Matador Records, but should also be easy to find in stores.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz