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Album Review

On its sixth album, Dilate, Bardo Pond cuts through the dense, smoky haze of Set and Setting and Lapsed to deliver its most refined collection to date. Even the title's drug reference (the band's first three releases were named after various mind-altering toads and mushrooms) is subtler, yet more evocative. Bardo Pond's roaring guitars, trippy flutes, and pummeling drums are all still in place, but now the group uses them sparingly instead of in heroic doses. Indeed, the album's best moments mix equally vast amounts of noise and space, giving Dilate an appropriately expansive feel. Isobel Sollenberger's double-tracked vocals take the lead on "Sunrise" and "Inside," a pair of spacy epics that hover around the edges of pop before veering into guitar maelstroms. The album also celebrates the prettier, emotional side of Bardo Pond's music, which the group has often obscured with clouds of distortion. A melancholy beauty permeates the string-driven instrumental "Two Planes" as well as rolling, folk-meets-fuzz ballads like "Aphasia" and "Favorite Uncle." These songs and Dilate's centerpiece, "Despite the Roar" (which shimmers like heat distortion before exploding into a trippy climax after five and half minutes), suggest vulnerability in a gauzy, abstract way that's more affecting than directly stating it. But the album also indulges Bardo Pond's interest in textures, as the Eastern-inspired motifs of "Swig" and subtle guitar washes and backward snares of "Hum" prove. However, it wouldn't be a Bardo Pond album without some glorious guitar excesses, and Dilate delivers with the heavy, wittily named "Lb.," a kinetic piece of stoner rock more in keeping with the group's two previous efforts. And though it's over 11 minutes long, the album closer "Ganges" manages to keep its mix of crunchy riffs and droning strings inventive throughout. Likewise, Dilate proves that the members of Bardo Pond keep finding ways to reinvent their sound, surpassing themselves each time they do.


Formed: 1993 in Philadelphia, PA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Bardo Pond was the flagship band of Philly's "Psychedelphia" space rock movement, which also included the likes of Aspera, Asteroid No. 4, the Azusa Plane, and tangentially the Lilys. Explicitly drug-inspired -- their titles were filled with obscure references to psychedelics -- they favored lengthy, deliberate sound explorations filled with all the hallmarks of modern-day space rock: droning guitars, thick distortion, feedback, reverb, and washes of white noise. Hints of blues structure often cropped...
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Dilate, Bardo Pond
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