Bardo Pond

Record Store Day Trilogy

Bardo Pond’s vinyl releases have been among the most coveted of recent Record Store Day output, a limited series of three EPs that constitute some of the most seriously tripped cover versions in recent memory. Those who tore their hair out trying to find them on Record Store Days over the past three years can now rest easy, as they have now been carefully compiled for a very welcome reissue by Fire Records. Each pairing is an exercise in possession and illumination, and do not shy away from taking some of the best loved songs of the late 60s and early 70s counter-culture, beginning with the heady duo of Funkadelic’s ‘Maggot Brain’ and Pharaoh Sanders ‘The Creator Has A Masterplan’.

The group take the original’s sense of desolation eloquent fashion, basking in the plaintive ballad-like melody for all its worth, content to let Isobel Sollenberger’s evocative flute take centre stage. The languorous nature of both Bardo Pond’s working methods and the original synchronise perfectly into a heat-haze of burning aural bliss. The litany of ‘Masterplan’ becomes a pellucid, acid-drenched wave; guitars are strident yet oddly muted, bathing everything in an appreciative summer glow. Isobel Sollenberger’s flute gambols over the instrumentation free-spirited and agile, striking a dissonant melody running counter to the song’s contented heart. Her vocals lay coolly above the ritual, soothing and human, rising above the tumult.

The art of the cover version is as much about re-animation as it is performance, raising the temperature of a stark original to an incandescence that was always lurking at its heart bringing dead songs back to life, which is certainly true of The Velvet Underground’s ‘Ride Into The Sun’ and Brian Eno’s ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’. A low key invocation of the former blossoms into belligerent rock roar. Whispering, halting vocals dream and distil the music bays and protests in full fury, with a fierce rhino-hide guitar solo at its core. Wah wah pedal delirium and a brisk pace customise Eno’s original into a repository of exposition and extension, pushing out the parameters into a hulking mass of guitar-oriented glory with an iron-hard carapace.

The final pairing from this year’s RSD release ‘Is There A Heaven?’ is the most assured and surprising selection, a clash of art rock and free jazz. Bardo Pond’s retooling of Roxy Music’s ‘In Every Dream Home A Heart Ache’ truly expands the sinister original into a pulsating rock behemoth, howling with guitar rage and sinuous, nerve-shredding power. Isobel’s imploring take on Brian Ferry’s fetishistic lyrics is a dazzling addition, and a mighty inversion of the male-centric sense of the narrator’s gaze. Albert Ayler’s ‘Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe’ transforms into stumbling yet utterly compelling beast, a devastating slow motion mauling that eviscerates the original – reiterating the sludge/doom elements that lie at the core of the group’s psychedelic soul. Bardo Pond’s effortless way with such heavy artillery is one of underground rock’s most extraordinary enigmas, a majestic command of sound and fury that is rarely equalled. This outstanding compilation is as great a display of sonic overhaul as one could wish for.

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