Off On Their Own Ethereal Plane

Bardo Pond
with Forktongue
The Starfish Room
Vancouver, B.C.
Sunday, September 29, 1996

Review by Darren Kerr
Photography by Rodney Gitzel

When you hear that Pennsylvania's Bardo Pond have albums named for those toads that you lick (Bufo Alvarus) and for magic mushrooms that are usually toxic (Amanita), you fear them ever asking you what your poison is. Theirs is a slow acting poison, one which tries to render its victims catatonic through dense walls of sound -- the guitar as Quaalude.

Bardo Pond Envision Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins warbling over top of the Melvins' "Charmicarmicat" or maybe Sarah McLachlan fronting Earth and you're halfway there. Bardo Pond don't write songs per se. There is no such thing as a bridge or a chorus, and at this performance (with a few notable exceptions), there were no obstacles in the form of words. In this lethargic universe, there are only sheets of flowing calculated noise, tapestries of distorted guitars, snatches of flute and way under-mixed drums.

To say that Bardo Pond don't move on stage would be a criminal understatement, but to say vocalist Isabella isn't compelling to watch would be a bold-faced lie. She stands on stage, frail and pretty. She looks like your Grade 9 crush, vacant but totally into the now, clinging to the ethereal plane that the band inhabits. If you think she is stoned, well, she is. After every song she stands like an exhausted Oscar winner, giving thanks to her "herbal angel."

There was no dynamic to be found in this Bardo Pond performance. There was build-up and tension, but what was sorely missing was any form of silence or sanctuary to contrast the cacophony.

Forktongue bassist Part of me thinks, no, knows that this show was for the most part redundant, but another part of me knows that the feeling of freedom that Bardo Pond must get playing music so spatial and vast must be immense. If they create songs that are able to harness and shape their hypnotic power rather than simply driving one idea into the tarmac, they could become the band of choice for tripmavens looking to traverse a different lunar landscape.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on October 20, 1996

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