Posts Tagged ‘bardo pond’


Recent Releases Rounded-up: Black Hearted Brother, The Stargazer Lilies, Youth Code, Wooden Shjips, Sean Proper, more

November 21, 2013

More recent release reviews at THIS PAGE.


Black Hearted Brother: Stars Are Our Home

As if knowing the debut album by alumni of Slowdive (!) and Seefeel (!) could hardly live up to expectations, Black Hearted Brother decided to far surpass them. Quite simply, this might be the best shoegaze album I’ve heard all year. It very well might even be the best indie/rock album I’ve heard in the last ten, but that would risk committing some pretty bold hyperbole. So let’s leave it at the best 2013 has to offer.

Drawing from krautrock, shoegaze, space-rock and 60 years of pop music traditions, soaring melodies glide over expansive sonic landscapes that somehow manage to be evocative of the past without being derivative (though “If I Was Here To Change Your Mind” definitely takes a page from the Spiritualized songbook). Ironically, this might be the only shoegaze record in the last few years that doesn’t bear almost too-strong a Slowdive influence. At times the album toes the stadium rock line (Verve and Suede are hinted at), but the mood is kept intimate and sincere.

Bands like Arcade FireColdplay or Muse could take a lesson here on how to paint with broad, epic strokes without coming off as brash poseurs and do gentle without seeming like ineffectual drips—but I doubt they’d have much interest in doing so. Anyway, Stars are our Home is a ball hit way out of the park.

5 Space pop masterpieces out of 5 Master shoegazers back at work

The Stargazer Lilies: We Are The Dreamers

If you were, say, a shoegaze stormtrooper, We Are The Dreamers is the shoegaze you’re looking for. Don’t let any strange old dream-pop Jedi hermits tell you otherwise. Do these ex-Soundpool members lay it on thick as honey? Sure, they do. They may as well have named the band The Shoegazer Lilies. But thank god. Melodies! Washes of filtered reverb! Sweet as nectar vocals! It’s everything great about nu-gaze front-runners Soundpool (and Slowdive and Cocteau Twins, naturally), but refined and distilled into a tonic to rival the best releases on 4AD and Creation in their heyday. If not for Black Hearted Brother, this would be the shoegaze record of the year.

4.85 Languid psychedelic waterbeds out of 5 Dream ships aloft on solar winds

Youth Code: Youth Code

This could very well be my new favourite record of the year. The year in question being 1987. Though in that case it has some stiff competition with Front 242‘s Official Version and Nitzer Ebb‘s That Total Age. Not to mention Skinny Puppy‘s Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate. These are all artists referenced by the brilliant EBM revivalists Youth Code who take an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to the genre. Gloriously regressive and devolutionary. True, there’s nothing quite as immediately catchy as “Headhunter” or “Violent Playground” on the LP (though “Let The Sky Burn” is pretty damn close), but it’s not entirely necessary to have earworm hooks in EBM—just that jackhammer, chest compressing, beat and that mechanical bass sound peppered with guttural screams and old movie samples. Plus, it gives the duo somewhere to grow on the next album which I’m already salivating for.

4.875 Cyberpunk jackhammers out of 5 Howling emaciated Belgian canines

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Bardo Pond: Set and Setting (1999)

September 16, 2013


Roll: 1-3-4
Album: Bardo Pond, Set and Setting

I’m not sure if Set and Setting is the heaviest Bardo Pond record, but it has to be one of the fuzziest. Any fuzzier and it’d sound like a room full of broken TVs. Not a criticism at all, I like a fuzzed-out jam. I’m just saying this record has the fuzz turned up to eleven. That’s a good thing. Twelve might be a problem, but for the ultimate brain-blending, sludgy, fuzz-rock experience, well, anything less than ten really isn’t sufficient. Eleven is a good amount of fuzz.

It took me a long time to get into Bardo Pond. Mostly because they’re a bit of a difficult band to pigeonhole—their records range from tightly focused psychedelic indie-rock to sloppy stoner jams that slide out from under you—so I was always labouring under a misconception about what kind of band they are. In the ’90s I was under the impression they were just a lesser alt/grunge unit I didn’t need to bother with. In some ways, that’s a fair description. They hit the scene a bit later in the game (1994), never wrote pop songs and consequently never really made a splash in the public consciousness like Sonic Youth or Mudhoney did. In fact, they were pretty easy to ignore and since no one in my circles championed them, I forgot they existed for about 20 years.

Then a few summers ago a champion finally came along. My buddy Stephen told me that (since I was lamenting how I’d pretty much emptied the desert rock, shoegaze and krautrock wells) my next musical excursion should be a dive into the depths of the Bardo Pond catalogue.

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