Posts Tagged ‘Bardo Pond’

Vapour Theories – “Breaking Down (The Portals of Hell)”

The end of the year got dense, to say the least and I definiely missed out on this when it was announced, but it still hits like a corroded kick to the carotid. Vapour Theories, the Bardo Pond side project of John and Michael Gibbons, have risen once more with a new album out in February on Fire Records. The album was chopped out of hours of improvisational recordings that traverse a familarly scorched and shrouded landscape that both VT and The Pond have traversed in the past. The record digs deep into undulating fuzz and ambience that won’t let itself be shoved into the background. The brothers even tackle an Eno classic in the form of “The Big Ship,” but on “Breaking Down (The Portals of Hell)” the band enlists a groundswell of growl that would befit such a title. The song vibrates with a barren ache that can be felt to the last dying moments. The record is out February 26th from Fire Records and it feels like a necessary part of the Bardo extended fam.



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Bardo Pond – Adrop / Circuit VIII

Oof, almost too late with this one, despite the LP having been released just last Friday, but there’s still time as long as good outlets hold out. Pretty sure if you’re landing on the shores of Raven Sings the Blues that familiarity with Bardo Pond is a given, but I’m not one for assumptions. Philadelphia’s reigning noise wranglers have fallen under many banners from psych to space to noise and experimental – each assessment is 100% correct and can’t be divorced from the other. The band is a force of nature and that force is on full display over this two-record reissue of their ‘06/’08 releases for Three Lobed — Adrop and Circuit VIII. Both records were part of CD series that the label put together in these respective years. Adrop was only available as part of the “Modern Containment” collection that included Hush Arbors, Kinski, Mirror/Dash, Mouthus, Sun City Girls, Sunburned Hand of the Man, MV & EE with the Bummer Road, and Wooden Wand and the Omen Bones Band. I believe it was that last one that brought me into the TRL awareness in the first place, but the set also opened up a world of post-Matador Bardo Pond to me that was more sinister and more visceral than they’d ever been on the mini-major.

Adrop works in movements and they push a cloud of static through the heart of a dying sun. The record saws at the consciousness and proves that the Pond is not an average psych band by any means, defying any usual metrics at the time. The following set, Circuit VIII is equally scorched and unsettled, having found its way into the label’s next series “Oscillations III.” This series found them alongside fellow travelers Bark Haze, Tom Carter, GHQ, Howlin’ Rain, Magik Markers, The Michael Flower Band, Lee Ranaldo, Vanishing Voice, and Jack Rose. Eschewing movements, but operating in much the same way as Adrop, Circuit VIII is one longform piece that travels from deep, volcanic growls to tender acoustic tears. It’s a record that, much like its predecessor, defies convention or categorization, but as any Bardo collector might surmise, also elevates the form of mining cosmic vibrations beyond what many of their peers were doing at the time. Side note: that “Oscillations III” box contains one of the very earliest Robert Beatty covers and is worth nabbing a CD copy for this as well. Nice to see the label pack these two back together and set them aloft on vinyl as well. Both of these CD series were pretty formative in terms of how RSTB came about, so its got a special place in my heart.




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Bardo Pond

It’s almost hard to believe that Bardo Pond are approaching 30 years as a band, but at the same time, it’s hard to imagine the psychedelic landscape without them. I personally got hooked into the Pond, as I imagine quite a few folks did with Dilate, coming slightly late to the party but grateful to find them as hosts. They’ve spent the intervening years carving out their own place between the creased consciousness of space rock, dreampop, psych and noise. They come to their latest, Under The Pines, after an epic collaboration with Acid Mothers Temple and Guru Guru last year. The album cuts back on the sheer heft and volume that the preceding project fostered, placing vocalist Isobel Sollenberger floating high above a pounding cascade of feedback and atmospheric billow. This cloaks Under The Pines ably in the band’s dreampop guise.

They wear the style well, but as could be expected of a band that’s spent three decades chasing the tail of the psychedelic snake, they aren’t exactly hewing to a one note sound here. Even when the tracks are similarly built on caged squall, they’re constantly adding nuance to the sonic struggle between the overwhelming wall of noise and Sollenberger’s gorgeous purr. Sollenberger also adds a mystic touch of flute to the proceedings, giving the record a mournful air and another fleck of beauty battling the churning froth. Then, as if to prove their mettle tenfold, they ease out into a dustbowl of psych country for the album standout “Moment To Moment.” It’s this kind of song that stamps them as masterful elder statesmen in a crowded field of newcomers jockeying for time on the psychedelic speakers. In a career full of high caliber records, they’ve never sounded so at ease with their prowess than right now.




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Grumbling Fur

On their fourth album the duo of Alexander Tucker and Daniel O’Sullivan reach for their most accessible works yet, though true to their style, they do it by utilizing abstract means and experimental textures that come together catchy on the whole. Blending circular rhythms, bowed strings, eastern instruments, and dense atmospheres, they take an ostensibly drone driven palette and work together songs that seem simple but unfold into loose and winding synth pop gems that could easily double as Eastern psych-pop if you strip away the vocals. Those vocal are an integral part of their aesthetic though. Both Tucker and O’Sullivan deliver in somber tones that convey a sadness that oftentimes mask the songs’ more uplifting lyrics.

The duo rope in some good company to bring the assist on Furfour, This Heat’s Charles Bullen and Isobel Sollenberger from Bardo Pond both join the band on a few tracks, adding their shading to the mix, which shares much in common with Arthur Russell or Depeche Mode gone far more experimental in their instrumental efforts. The textures, layers and rainy day demeanor seem perfect for those who’ve sought to hide away behind heavy curtains and in darkened corners of the house. For every lighthearted moment like “Acid Ali Khan,” there’s two more that up the tension. Most notably this peaks on album standout “Suneaters,” a pounding track with ominous vibes that closes out the album on an air of dread. They find similar moments of menace on “Silent Plans/Black Egg” and weave spoken word bits that lean to the sci-fi and spiritual, adding a bent of countercultural occult to the album. Furfour elevates itself above mere synthpop and into an album of balanced light and dark, heavy and frothy, catchy and abstract. Its the band doing what they do best, polishing it to a high gloss sheen that’s bittersweet and comforting in its embrace.




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RSTB Best of 2016 (so far)

Ok, so deep down I know that the half-year best-of rundown is becoming an expected bit of mid-year clickbait listicle self-love. It’s a totem that’s somewhat unnecessary, seeing how at the end of the year votes get tallied and the same releases get pondered. But since I also have the nagging gnaw that a culture of collective consciousness music press will result in plenty of homogeneous diatribes about what’s been considered the cream of ’16, I figure that it’s worth it to shine some light on a few deserving entities that are gonna to be left out of the party.

Some outlets have gone so far as to tell the world that 2016 has been super stressful for them, what with all the surprise albums needing their immediate attention. Sleepless nights in the review mines, I’m sure. Caffeinated burns through the wee hours that are called upon because absorption of albums over time is heresy these days. No time to listen deep because those other sites are stealin’ your views, siphoning clicks, and by next week those cuts will be far too stale to talk about anyhow. RSTB’s always there to let you know that sometimes its OK to let an album fester under your skin a while. Review it late, review it early, but maybe listen long enough to learn how it impacts you—or at least how it sounds in the car vs. the speakers vs. the headphones.

I’m starting to think that sometimes best should be more relative and less quantitative, and maybe it might be fun if there were a few more outlets with a true voice. But, so went the airwaves, so go the reviews, eh? Ah, maybe I’m just old fashioned. Anyhow, here are the picks. Remember RSTB is never content (n.), and never content (adj.).

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Bardo Pond – AcidGuruPond

I’m not always one for RSD releases. For every amazing collaboration or clutch reissue, there are usually a hundred releases that are thrown in bins for the sake of pressing up needless nostalgia. Personally, I don’t ever need a reason to be coaxed into a record store, either, let alone wait in line for one. However, Bardo Pond’s release this year warrants some true praise. The long beloved drone/psych unit teamed up with Acid Mothers Temple and Guru Guru, both of which collaborated themselves on a solid string of records, including the spark that set it all off, 2007’s Psychedelic Navigator. Adding the Pond to the mix only makes this psychic stew even heavier, swampier and more psyionically gelatinous.

The album opens with a bit of pastoral psych before it moves into heavier tones and the ozone burn of AMT and Guru Guru can both be felt. Its not as slung with rhythmic chug as one might expect given that Guru Guru is involved, rather the combo seems to be coasting on melted vibes that roll through floor puddled zone out to the clash of free jazz ramble (specifically “Orange”). By the time “Red” rolls around the record drops into noisier territory, smoldering in full on cinder-psych territory, uncomfortable in any position and twisting to break free of its constraints. A damn fine outburst from all involved and Fire has put it together in a gorgeous package as well (RSD, gotta have colors). If your local store is out, you should buy something else from them and then head to Discogs. There are still some moral souls there selling it for around retail.

Some copies available HERE.

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