Bardo Pond’s new album, Under The Pines, seems to begin halfway through something. We are mid-gig, just at the point where the band hits a new level of riff-heavy transcendence. Isobel Sollenberger’s vocals drift somewhere out in the ionosphere; balancing, lurching in amongst slow motion guitars which have crawled out of the bowels of the earth. Perhaps they have achieved perpetual motion, the eternal balance that will keep their music rolling out indefinitely. As Sollenberger intones “It goes on forever”, it seems probable. After 25 years, Bardo Pond know what they do best, and have the confidence to simply do it. This makes Under The Pines a career high; a still point where everything comes together.
With none of the over-indulgence of an extended jam session, the album is simple and carefully ordered. Of the six tracks, two run to ten minutes, bookended by shorter songs. It is a controlled explosion, heart-stopping pressure waves of sound contained within a structure. The tension builds as the band gives it everything, then pulls it all back in. The sound they make at full throttle - a jet engine formation passing overhead at full volume but impossibly slow speed, hanging in the sky. It occupies similar territory to Wooden Shjips, who have a vision of the same full psychedelic immersion. Bardo Pond are not interested in the mannerisms of psychedelic music, but rather in its core philosophy. They strip back the frippery and focus on the head rush, transporting themselves to a parallel perception with the listener in tow.
The second double length track, ‘Moment To Moment’, stands out from the maelstrom. The guitars back off and Sollenberger delivers a country-blues into the space that opens out - a slide guitar following her out of the sump. Her impassioned vocal performance register, strangely, as a moment of calm surrounded by high banks of sound. The title track pushes the vocals further to the front of the mix, with the longing message:
“Does the pine tree drop its leaves? // that’s where I want to lie.”
However, that’s not the end, and the album finishes on a clear sky, with the instrumental ‘Effigy’ pulling the layers apart to give the guitars a new buzz. Under the Pines takes a trip to a different world, but finds its way out again just in time.