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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Bardo Pond: Peace On Venus


1) Kali Yuga Blues; 2) Taste; 3) Fir; 4) Chance; 5) Before The Moon.

«Anyone interested in the future of rock and roll should run out right now and listen to this al­bum», a hyper-excited David Maine tells us in his review of this album on PopMatters. The fu­ture of rock and roll? Just in case this information slipped through the cracks, these guys have been working on this same schtick for almost twenty frickin' years now — unless, of course, by «future» we mean «well-forgotten past». Naturally, this should not be taken as a nasty swig at the band: Bardo Pond are in a very well-defined line of business, and have every right to stay in that line until tinnitus gets the best of them. Nor is it any crime to get your first blast of Bardo Pond excitement from their ninth studio album rather than their first. But I do wonder whether review­ers in, say, 1990 were able to come up with excited judgements like «anyone interested in the future of rock and roll should run out right now and listen to AC/DC's The Razor's Edge!» — which, for that matter, was a really really good rock'n'roll record indeed.

Perhaps the future of rock'n'roll is in brevity: the one most unusual thing about Peace On Venus is that it is the shortest Bardo Pond LP released so far — 5 tracks, 39 minutes. As I said many times before, brevity usually works against these guys, since their voodoo needs time to brew in order to permeate your senses, and this album is no exception: it, too, lacks the truly epic gran­deur of an Amanita or a Dilate, leaving fewer chances for the evolution of initial skepticism into final mesmerism. Worse still, even though at the point of writing this review most memories of individual Bardo Pond highlights have already fled my mind, I feel quite certain that the band's gallery of musical images has not been significantly replenished with these five extra composi­tions. In fact, what with the band's experience and all, Peace On Venus sounds like it could have been composed and recorded in a single autopilot session, stretched over a couple of days at best. At any rate, it certainly does not sound like an album that had a proper 3-year gestation period.

The best tracks, this time, are arguably the shortest ones, where lady Isobel's flute and vocals are featured most prominently: ʽTasteʼ offers a good slice of Bardo Pond's trademark contrast be­tween the idyllic pastoral beauty on top and the deeply rumbling earth core at the bottom, where­as on ʽFirʼ the vocals are already directed high up in the sky, adding an «astral» dimension to the proceedings (so you could treat the crackling feedback as burning rocket fuel rather than streams of molten lava). Not a great deal of overdubs here, meaning it all sort of sounds like «Björk meets Crazy Horse» — which would have been one hell of a great meeting, come to think of it.

As for the longer tracks, their melodic qualities are fairly negligible — ʽKali Yuga Bluesʼ has Isobel murmuring instead of singing, ʽChanceʼ is completely instrumental, ʽBefore The Moonʼ only has a few traces of psychedelic vocal somnambulism, and all three are pinned to leaden, lethargic blues-rock riffs that keep predictably unfurling into guitar-effect-crazy explosions and then furling back to minimal states of existence, usually several times over the duration of one track. We've all heard that before, sometimes worse, often better; expecting any sort of «pro­gress» here is futile, and the only way to prefer this to Amanita would be by dismissing all music made prior to 2010 as «irrelevant» to the present day consumer (not that there aren't a lot of people who do behave that way).

I will refrain from a thumbs down this time, since ʽTasteʼ is really well done, and the short run­ning time, while it does prevent the album from «grand» status, also prevents it from becoming unbearable. But when the compositions start getting so predictable (and you have to remember that the underlying melodies are excruciatingly simple and derivative; it all depends on the force of the crescendos), it gets really hard to become excited about a record like this unless you really throw out every single memory of what preceded it — like David Maine apparently has.

Check "Peace On Venus" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Peace On Venus" (MP3) on Amazon

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