Bardo Pond

Peace on Venus

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    7
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After 22 years, Bardo Pond guitarists and siblings Michael and John Gibbons have developed a rapport few other teams can match. Despite having an instantly recognizable "sound," BP have evolved and grown, all while keeping their root aesthetic intact. Peace on Venus combines the sheer heaviness they employed on Yntra with the hypnotic pacing, textural control, and tasteful improvisation they displayed on their Record Store Day covers 12" of Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain" and Pharoah Sanders' "The Creator Has a Master Plan." The Gibbons brothers, vocalist/flutist Isobel Sollenberger, bassist Clint Takeda, and drummer Jason Kourkounis have been appended by Aaron Igler on synth and electronics. "Kali Yuga Blues," commences with heavily distorted, melodic fingerpicking before Sollenberger enters unhurriedly, offering mantra-like vocals hovering just above the din as the band kicks into gear. The melody and her syncopated delivery recall Neil Young & Crazy Horse. Beautifully articulated guitar squalls preface big tom-tom and snare drum accents that signal the ends of lines. A sense of heavy, blown-out drifting feedback feels as if it will claim the melody -- but it never does. Even in the solos, it's more often than not just one or two being played repeatedly toward exploratory hypnotic effect. Sollenberger's flute swoops in here and there just to add to the depth and dimension. The two shorter cuts here -- "Taste" and "Fir" -- while still massively sonic exercises, are more intricate and formal in construction; Sollenberger's lovely unaffected singing makes them feel like lyric nocturnal lullabies from the end of the world. "Chance," an instrumental, is briefly introduced with acoustic guitar and flute. When the band comes in, Sollenberger plays a melody inside a carefully and slowly articulated chord/riff sequence. The tune unhurriedly develops, then twists and turns seemingly imperceptibly; it ends somewhere entirely other as the Gibbons' guitars and Takeda's monstrous bass improvs take turns wailing away. Throughout, her flute attempts to hold the thing together, creating a glorious tension. Closer "Before the Moon" is the most acid-drenched, abstract thing here; but it's also the tune that most closely resembles a 12-bar blues. Its deliberate stops and starts add form and function, but create a frame where flute and guitars can lift off in tandem exhorted by the drum kit. Fans of BP will no doubt delight in this masterful set, while newcomers will experience their brand of mind-melding consciousness expansion en masse.

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