Bardo Pond - Record Store Day Trilogy - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Bardo Pond - Record Store Day Trilogy

by Ian Fraser Rating:8 Release Date:2015-06-29

Heavens to Betsy! Not one but three EPs of cover versions, one for each of the last three Record Store Days compiled into one package by those wonderful Bardo Pond people.

Now I must confess to having a big soft spot for Bardo Pond. It’s in the dark space that my brain used to inhabit before it was melted to water by years of exposure to the dangerously grungy psychedelic battering of Philadelphia’s finest. On the face of it, though,  a collection of six seemingly incongruous tracks ranging from art-rock to free-jazz and various points in between would suggest some respite or at least deviation from a delicious recipe. Not a bit of it.

The first pairing is Funkadelic’s 'Maggot Brain' – fair enough you might think, that slow-roasting classic would suit the Pond down to the scrapings and you’d be right on the money – and 'The Creator Has a Master Plan'. Hang on? Pharaoh Saunders? A less than obvious choice, you’d think, but then think again.

This is trippy, showcasing Pond’s barely restrained side, and is made to order for those who like their noodles deep-fried. On both tracks, the tendency towards masculine heavy-handedness – and I don’t mean that in a bad way – is tempered by Isobel Sollenberger’s flute, much in the same way as Nik Turner’s twittering would often take Hawkwind’s in-the-zone pile-driving to new heights.

The Velvets and Eno get the treatment next. Isobel’s vocals are more pronounced and focussed than we have heard on previous Pond releases. On 'Ride into the Sun', it takes at least two minutes for the band to drop the acoustic pretence and kick in big time behind her, escalating into some serious thrashing.

'Here Come the Warm Jets' was probably never meant to sound like this and if you hear them coming, duck! There’s a splendid energy to this rendition and I love it - the juxtaposition of a band at full-tilt and dreampop vocals evoking the glory days of shoegaze. My Bloody Valentine? Pussies.

Strange even in this day and age to hear a woman singing 'In Every Dream Home a Heartache', Roxy’s sinister, sleazy tale of lonesome lust and blow-up dolls, but you know it’s only gonna go one way once she intones “…but you blew my mind”. Gear.

Another tilt at jazz and this time it’s the late, great Albert Ayler who receives the Pond make-over ('Music is the Healing Force of the Universe'). Banshee wailing over Black Sabbath slab-dragging and thrash metal shredding that wouldn't sound out of place on one of the band’s regular releases. Again Sollenberger impresses, as of course do the brothers Gibbons on live-wire guitars, and Clint Takeda and Jason Kourkonis in the solar plexus-punching riddim section. There, now they’ve all had a mention.

In true Pond fashion, this doesn’t so much insinuate itself into your psyche as take a bazooka to your frontal lobe. Also it’s telling that each track allows the band to indulge in what it is so good at, that minimalist, repetitive and relentless torrent of sound, where all six numbers are drawn out way beyond their logical limit still have you begging for more. You don’t get too many notes for your money and you sure as hell don’t get much of this to the kilo. Way dense.

So what next? Well, you could sling them a pairing of 'Nessun Dorma' and 'My Old Man’s a Dustman', and I'm pleased to say you’d probably get the same outcome. Now there’s a splendid thought and one which they can have on us. Here’s to next year, Record Store Day! Can’t wait, already.

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Bardo Pond - Record Store Day Trilogy - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab
Bardo Pond - Volume 8
  • 01/24/2018
  • By Ian Fraser