Bardo Pond

Vol. IV

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AllMusic Review by

The continuing series of self-released jam and improvisation sessions results in another winner for the band, drawing on sessions from shortly after the release of Dilate through September 2002, released in conjunction with its appearance at the fifth Terrastock festival. As with the previous entries in the series, volume four may not be a formal album, but it has all the quality and compelling spirit that makes the quintet so worthwhile. For those who felt that the departure of Joe Culver on drums irreparably disturbed the group's chemistry, volume four might not convince them, but Ed Farnsworth sounds mighty fine, keeping things moving as the band goes, whether at barely there tempos or slightly speedier. Isobel Sollenberger's drifting, calling voice again provides the slippery but compelling hook amidst the slow-moving head-nod apocalypses that the rest of the group conjures up, while her flute playing, as on the regular releases, makes for an often surprisingly beautiful contrast. The overall feeling of volume four is a heavy-duty downward slide -- not too much of a change given the group's overall sound, but with Sollenberger practically drowned in a cavern of echo, songs like "New Drunks (Revisited)" and "Take What You Need" are suffused with beautiful melancholy. "K2," a quarter-hour-long instrumental, is a standout, showing that rather than formless jamming for the sake of it, the bandmembers are carefully attuned to each other, the Gibbons brothers' guitars creating a web of fluttering, often quite tense guitar work that easily comes through the reverb swathed over it. The even longer "Narmada" stretches out the epic descents of the band to astonishing levels, Sollenberger's flute cropping up in the mix as a lost siren signal amid the powerful grind of the full band.