It’s always interesting to me, especially when another arbitrary anniversary rolls around — 20 years since the release of Nevermind, 20 since the release of Pavement’s Slanted And Enchanted — and everyone bemoans the loss of those ideals of alternative music that seemed so heavy in the air in the 1990s, and now it’s all glitz ‘n’ glamour, etc. Bardo Pond has been here the whole goddamn time! (As has Half Japanese, Nina Nastasia, Six Finger Satellite, and on and on.) And Bardo Pond, in particular, wreck the pop narrative by sounding finer than ever in 2011. Bardo Pond is an album that constantly veers left when everyone else would go right. Right into the arms of the expected hook, melody, riff, lyric, beat. It is an album that is steeped in the best bits of their usual stylistic obsessions — krautrock, space rock, psychedlia, Appalachian rambles, sticky blues, white noise — and breaks them up, collages them, and warps them into something new and alien. In point of fact, Bardo Pond’s sounds are more wide open and untroubled by expectation than ever. Maybe it’s Isobel Sollenberger’s ageless voice refusing to play the boring Americana damsel, maybe it’s the way affecting balladry suddenly becomes explosions of deceptively amateurish feedback, maybe it’s the woozy musique concrete/Gong-meets-Americana obliqueness of “Just Once,” the doomy explosions and interstellar wonderment of “Don’t Know About You,” the backwards lead guitar lines on “Undone” simmering with tension and then elegant time-bomb release, or the fluid crystalline refractions of “Wayne’s Tune” ending the album perfectly.
Fire Records: firerecords.com