Amanita 2×LP/CD

Their name was inspired by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and the title of their debut album came from the scientific name for the kind of toad whose skin secretions induce powerful hallucinations if licked. This should give you some idea of what to expect from Bardo Pond's second full-length record, "Amanita." The group shrouds crafty, blues-ish songs with layers of guitar textures and experimentation, making for a trance-inducing listen which is a tad eerie but for the most part incredible.

The prominent, fuzzed-out guitar noise from John and Michael Gibbons has earned Bardo Pond plenty of Dead C comparisons, but "Amanita" is a much more structured affair. Vocalist/flutist Isobel Sollenberger sings drawn-out and beautiful melodies, while the rhythm section of Clint Takeda and Joe Culver propel things along nicely.

At first listen, it's likely that the only lyrics you'll pick up are about words getting in the way and something about how Sollenberger wishes she were a fish. But Bardo Pond's music goes way beyond the words, and Sollenberger's largely incomprehensible vocals are an essential part of the ever-mutating mix.

"Limerick" opens up the album with a hypnotic, expansive blast, but things clear up with the slightly more straightforward "Sentence" and "Tantric Porno." The former simmers with a series of explosive, fuzz-caked mumbles; the latter slows down and spreads out with oddly-metered drums and otherworldly sound effects. Later in the record, "Yellow Turban" plays with a cool, underwater-sounding groove, while "The High Frequency" provides the perfectly entrancing instrumental centerpiece.

Still, this record's charm isn't in its individual tracks, but in its ability to achieve a remarkable spectrum of moods from its strange, lazy drone. Rather than working with obvious changes in volume or tempo, Bardo Pond explore the dynamics of the hazy middle, uncovering all the intricate and subtly fascinating hooks the place has to offer.

— Mike Noren

[This review originally appeared in The Stanford Daily, May 16, 1996. The review used to be available online, but The Daily's archives no longer go back that far. Reprinted without permission.]

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