Bardo Pond's altered state of sound

Sapphire Supper Club, June 8, 1998

Philadelphia-based purveyors of noise rock, Bardo Pond take their use of the distortion pedal to a near spiritual level. While some bands use noise as an afterthought, Bardo Pond (a name inspired by "The Tibetan Book of the Dead") uses it to produce mind-bending states of consciousness accessible with or without drugs.

Guitarist Michael Gibbons explains how the band's sonic sludge is more then just noise. "It kind of opens your mind up, chemicals start flowing in your brain and it affects you in a way that makes you hear differently, feel differently. It becomes a feeling rather than just a sound."

"Disorienting" is the word Gibbons uses most often when asked to describe the band's sound and a tag he seems quite proud of. Their latest release, "Lapsed," makes it easy to see why. The opening track, "Tommy Gun Angel," wildly oscillates between muscular rock structures and My Bloody Valentine-like feedback, while the slow, climactic build-up of the 14-minute album closer, "Aldrin," captures the ebb and flow of space travel that would have provided a perfect soundtrack to coverage of the first moonwalk.

Currently consisting of Gibbons, guitarist John Gibbons (his brother), drummer Joe Culver, vocalist Isobel Sollenberger and bassist Clint Takeda, Bardo Pond has been steadily refining their sound since their inception in the early '90s. However, Gibbons felt it wasn't until Takeda came on full-time for the recording of "Lapsed" that the band finally gelled. The resulting chemistry has allowed Bardo Pond to balance free-jazz improvisation influenced by Sun Ra with the simple, noisy drone of the Velvet Underground. "It `‘Lapsed'` was kind of a combination of pushing the ‘free' `jazz` parts to make them more intense and then to have more structure at the same time," says Gibbons. "So it was like a dichotomy between being really free and really structured."

By bridging the gap between noise bands that work in a more traditional pop/rock setting and those that take a more experimental route, Gibbons seems happy to reside in the realm of chaos and form. "That's exactly where we wound up," he says. "We can go into really heavy experimentation or we can just rock. I'm sure if we didn't have any `guitar` effects at all, we could keep going. But we're just all in love with those textures, so we can't stop."


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