Set And Setting

Our rating:

They may no longer name their records after psychedelic toads and Indian magic mushrooms, but when it comes to locating the lysergic mainline to the soul, Bardo Pond have few peers....

They may no longer name their records after psychedelic toads and Indian magic mushrooms, but when it comes to locating the lysergic mainline to the soul, Bardo Pond have few peers. The Philadelphia quartet’s sixth album achieves the noble feat of heightening the charred intensity of 1997’s ‘Lapsed’ while evincing a peculiar clarity at the eye of their slo-mo distortion hurricane.

[a]Bardo Pond[/a] have long since given up on merely making noise for its own sake. ‘Set And Setting’ is an aural travel documentary featuring four people and how far they can get without moving from behind their amps. Opener ‘Walking Stick Man’ sucks its cheeks for 11 minutes, sluicing around the whacked-out slivers of John and Michael Gibbons‘ black-hole guitar tracings until, exhausted and delirious, it collapses into a wheezy harmonica outro and, finally, the next track. Which is called ‘This Time (So Fucked)‘. Jesus, it’s heavy. Meanwhile, Isobel Sollenberger has been groaning like a feral Kim Gordon about, oh y’know, stuff that comes down. Never hitherto properly audible, her voice is crucial in humanising Pond life.

Essentially, [a]Bardo Pond[/a] have tuned into the miasmic roar of Sonic Youth while eschewing the niceties of rocking out, presumably on grounds of taste. ‘Again’ is the closest they get to linear dynamics, but even here they’re in thrall to the suggestive possibilities of repetition. ‘Crawl Away’ is Joy Division for people who thought Joy Division erred on the cheery side.

Not waving but howling, [a]Bardo Pond[/a] go far. Maybe too far. But you’ll want to go with them.