Bardo Pond - Ticket Crystals

by Steve Reynolds Rating:9 Release Date:2013-03-18

Anyone familiar with Bardo Pond will probably understand that they aren't known for delivering short, pop-flavoured melodies designed to make the average music listener have a quick hit of ecstasy. However, if you're a curious newbie and feel that what you need in your life are long drawn out sonic landscapes, abrasive layers of guitar and motorik percussion, then you've arrived at exactly the right place. The band has been round the block since their embryonic year of 1991. Ticket Crystals was originally released in 2006 but is now set for a re-issue in vinyl format only on Fire Records with brand new artwork.

Bardo Pond are renowned as purveyors of space rock and for making noisy guitar pieces. They drench opener 'Destroying Angels' in waves of drone and ear-splitting wah-wah accompanied by Isobel Sollenberger's haunting vocal range and equally haunting flute. When you weigh it up, you wouldn't think a slice of wind instrument and a less than equal guitar tirade would work so cleverly together, but it's testament to their sheer bloody-minded persistence that they pull it off with admirable aplomb.

Once you start paying attention to the album in more detail, there is a considerable lean towards post-rock broodiness, epically demonstrated on 'Isle', all sweetness and light before growing into a behemoth-bastard-maelstrom of cathartic guitar. They've been clever enough to keep it tempered in the background as Isobel's ethereal and gentle vocal takes centre stage. However, the signs are there that they aren't afraid to let the shackles off when the time is right. 'Cry Baby Cry' is a dark, reinvented Beatles cover. Taking the words from the song is about the extent of it, really, as they cover the song in squalls of feedback and hypnotic water-torture-like drums, subtle yet effective.

BP could have fallen into the far too shortly lived 'Camden lurch' scene of the early-90s if they weren't the other side of the Atlantic ocean. They recall the juice and fuzz of fellow noiseniks Th' Faith Healers. 'Endurance' more than doffs it's cap to them. 'FC II' is stepped up to another level, recalling early Slint, the dope-laden arrangement of Spacemen 3 and the woozy psychedelic haze of Loop. The layers continue to build and build through a sea of mind-bending, viscous bass. The Gibbons brothers go toe-to-toe with their soaring guitar parts. It's the standout track on the album and it comes in at a less-than-flabby 18 minutes. 'Moonshine', meanwhile, focusses on Isobel's urgent warble before falling into a vat of noise.

The whole thing ends with the atonal 'Montana Sacra II'. Bathed in echo, feral feedback and distortion, its destructive and mid-paced, moribund arrangement is a fitting end to an album bristling with intoxicating and narcotic noise, interjected with subtle and effective shards of woodwind. Ticket Crystals deserves its re-issue and you owe it to yourself to find out why its importance shouldn't be understated.

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