Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Album Feature: Bardo Pond - Amanita (1996)

Here's a new feature I'm going to start doing occasionally, a maybe less-known album which I've been playing a lot recently. Here's the first in the series: Amanita by Bardo Pond. I'll play a track or maybe a couple of the album on the next radio show (I was going to do one on Sunday, but the studio was broken again apparently).

I first became aware of Bardo Pond from the (excellent, by the way) Pavement tribute record, "Everything Is Ending Here". They contribute a blazing version of the rarity "Home", all fuzz guitars, buried vocals and gorgeous feedback trailing guitar freakouts. So when I saw one of their records on one of my second hand record buying expeditions it seemed worth a go. Amanita is their third record, and perhaps their most popular (judging by the usual suspect websites).

And it's easy to see why. It opens with nearly four minutes of a single note drone played on what sounds like two guitars, repeatedly falling away into feedback or dissolving into fuzzy high harmonics. It's a pretty jaw-dropping way to open an album, and when the first track opens up it only gets better. BP construct deeply spacey drony psychedelic rock songs which move and grow with all the monolithic grace of a volcano erupting in slow motion. Most of the songs are based on just a couple of chords, with rock-solid bass and drums anchoring washes of warm fuzzy guitars and some of the best raga-ish streams of guitar and feedback I've heard since Karl Precoda left the Dream Syndicate. The general feel maybe owes a lot to the space-rock scene of Spacemen 3 et. al., but in terms of textures there's a definite shoegaze influence; they sound something like half-finished My Bloody Valentine jams (but better than that sounds)! The wispy female vocals almost recollect some of Kim's more melodic Sonic Youth songs, and in fact that's probably who their approach most reminds me of. They're like a warmer organic counterpart to SY's cold, industrial noise excursions. The lyrics don't make much sense ("Hey Mom, when I grow up I want to be a fish" on the imaginatively titled "Be a Fish"), but they're buried so deep in the mix they become just another component of the wash of sound floating above the wall of feedback. There's a flute in there too from time to time. The record's amazingly laid back, but controlled: the songs last just as long as they need to, and there's sometimes real aggression in the guitar noises.

All in all a really great record, psychedelic not in any cheaply artificial sense but by virtue of carefully constructed soundscapes. It's like a warm bath in aural form. It's also great music to play on an evening wander round the city, as I've been finding over the last week.

It's on Spotify, give it a listen if you have that.

Here's their Pavement cover.

For fans of: loveless-era My Bloody Valentine, Spacemen 3, Dream Syndicate

This might let you stream it:


  1. use lala ( and you can embed it right here in your blog then we can all listen to it right here without having to hunt it out!
    here i found this one: but you have to embed it.

  2. Awesome, cheers for the tip. Those aren't the full length songs and this one depends a lot on the slow builds and atmosphere, so I'd still urge you to track it down.