Last October, Bardo Pond played Manchester Albert Hall, alongside Liars, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. They were originally going to be performing at an all day noise rock festival ‘Transformer 2’, but it got downsized to just these three bands, with only Godspeed getting the full set treatment. Bardo Pond had around thirty minutes to get their drone on, which wasn’t enough, by the time they whipped out the flute and got going it was over. No swamps for me, they never had time to fill.
Fast forward to June 2018 and Bardo Pond played the UK once more, the Brudenell Social Club no less. I booked a hotel, hopped on a train to Leeds, then proceeded straight to the show for two whole hours of beautiful wonderful noise. And this time, no feelings were left unfulfilled. You can’t rush them with this.
The two-hour set was a series of drone not drones, thundering drums and waves of repetitive guitar. The sludge like quality heard on the albums is 100% present live, with each track a self-contained journey through feedback and flutes. Whilst there is a distinct Bardo Pond sound, the music often has elements of metal, noise rock, country, and folk, all running against each other at the same time, it takes a little time to grow accustomed to how it all clicks together. But when it does, and it certainly did at the Brudenell, whoo it’s like finding peace through meditation. A calm inside the storm as the say, right?
The 2017 album ‘Under The Pines’ is still the fresh new sound from Philadelphia, so of course it was the main focus for the night, half the set to be precise. This was also the main focus when they took the support slot back at the Albert Hall, only this time when the flute made its debut, it was just the beginning, not the finale. With the likes of ‘Kali Yuga Blues‘ acting as the rev up, and a near thirty minute rendition of ‘Amen‘, almost as long as that ill-fated Albert Hall set, it only highlighted that Bardo Pond are all about the groove, and a good groove takes time.
The slow building pieces are so dense, so intense, and the accompanying lyrics of Isobel Sollenberger add an emotional weight to what are already moving experimental movements. ‘I’m so happy, I could cry‘ indeed. The voice, the flute, the metal style drumming, and the zonked out guitars are all fundamental to making Bardo Pond so unique in genre they work within.
And loud and live is how it should be heard. Get lost in the noise, find meaning in the abstractions, then keep on drifting from the reality you’ve been living with. For one night it’s okay to do such things, it was okay for me anyhow, anyway, though it was hard to shift back when the final feedback faded. My weekly sessions of sitting in silence to the sound of my breathing felt so worthless after. Meditation centres should be playing this in their echo chambers.
And so, I finally got to see, really see, the band with the swamp like drones, and the flute that makes it all sink in.