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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Bardo Pond: Ticket Crystals


1) Destroying Angel; 2) Isle; 3) Lost Word; 4) Cry Baby Cry; 5) Fc II; 6) Moonshine; 7) Endurance; 8) Montana Sacra II.

Most of the reviews of this album that I have seen went the predictable way about it — preten­ding to forget about everything that Bardo Pond did since Amanita, and comparing it directly with their earliest records. Because this at least gives you an opportunity to fill the space up with something, e. g. «it is interesting to note that the heavy psychedelic guitars take a step back in or­der to make more room for Isobel Sollenberger's flute», even though the flute presence here is not really any more overwhelming than it was on their previous two records. But we do have to find progress in everything that we listen to, right?..

Well, forget it. The only thing there is on Ticket Crystals that constitutes a genuine surprise is a cover of the Beatles' ʽCry Baby Cryʼ — apparently, recorded for a John Lennon tribute album (commemorating the 25th anniversary of the murder) and placed here for fear of being wasted. It is actually quite a decent, minimalistic cover for the first three minutes: acoustic guitar, percus­sion, and vocals that are very loyal to the original phrasing and intonation. Then, once the main body is done, the number finally turns into real Bardo Pond, as waves of feedback finally hit the shore, and that which was pretty singing just a few moments ago is now blurred mumbling — «The Beatles according to Bardo Pond» indeed.

Everything else remains steadfast and true. The funereal atmosphere of Ellipse is lightened up a bit, rolled back to earlier standards: the acoustic chords and ambient flutes of ʽIsleʼ are a little melan­cholic, but «relaxing» rather than «depressing» (and feature unusually «clean» vocals from Isobel, so that not only can one finally decipher a few of the words she is singing — not that there is any need to — but also understand that getting in key is a really difficult job for her, even if she has a nice folksy soprano tone). The heavy fuzz-and-grumble is back with a vengeance on ʽDestroying Angelʼ and ʽFc IIʼ. And the band seems to have developed a real taste for backward vocals — ʽMoonshineʼ and ʽLost Wordʼ, in particular, play around with tape direction as if it were 1966 all over again.

That said, on any evaluation scale that takes Bardo Pond for a curve rather than straight line, Ticket Crystals is a bit of a disappointment. The heavy stuff is not nearly as heavy as it used to be, and the light stuff is not nearly as moody. It's not that they aren't doing anything «new», it's just that doing the «old» no longer seems to arm them with excitement. Some of these drones, particularly the closing ʽMontana Sacra IIʼ, already seem to confuse «atmosphere» with «sheer tedium». For the newly grown fan, unaware of Amanita, this can still be enchanting; but I see no reason for the seasoned veteran to award Ticket Crystals any more points than one would, for instance, award to the Rolling Stones' Black And Blue over Let It Bleed. Essentially, this is the sound of a mood-oriented band past its moody prime, tenaciously clinging to the old formula, but hardly deriving any further happiness from it — even for their own selves, let alone the listeners. Hence, I do hereby give the album a thumbs down, despite a Bardo Pond-perfect running length of seventy-seven minutes... wasted length, because the mind, already addicted to Amanita-level psychedelia, needs seriously stronger stuff than this to start reeling.

Check "Ticket Crystals" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Ticket Crystals" (MP3) on Amazon

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