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Bufo Alvarius

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Album Review

It starts with feedback, hum, and fuzz, then a heavy guitar riff emerging from the murk — arguably Bardo Pond in a nutshell. Then again, enough other bands do the same thing, so why should the Pond get singled out? It's hard to pin down an exact reason, but whatever "it" is that a band needs to connect, they've got it. The slow, stony pace that "Adhesive" establishes for Bufo Alvarius Amen 29:15 continues through the album's remaining tracks, but in such a way that Bardo Pond rapidly become their own band and not merely the sum of their influences. There's something about the combination of lo-fi crunch, post-shoegaze bliss-out, stoner Quaalude head-nodding, and Loop/Spacemen 3-inspired drone that's truly unique. Standout moments abound: "Back Porch" has a series of instrumental breaks with brief, beautiful guitar lines, while on the soft jangle of "On a Side Street," various solos unfold slowly but surely in the background as lowly sung lyrics amble about. "Capillary River" has some astonishing, transcendent soloing in the middle of the song, building up to a brilliant final verse as Gibbons' vocals are lost in feedback and haze. The low-key shuffle/drone "Absence" is a good showcase for Sollenberger's singing — sweeter and clearer here than might be expected. The CD version includes what might be the ultimate head-trip of them all, at least for this particular album: the 30-minute "Amen." The central part of the song is a fairly simple chord progression repeated again and again, but it's the various touches throughout the number — the extra drones, watery deep reverb on the bass, and slow overall rhythm — that make it the understated monster it is.


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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Bufo Alvarius, Bardo Pond
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