The world's most essential psychedelic rock experience should defy rational explanation and scholarly deconstruction. No tablature can define for you what these latter day cosmic couriers bring to the table, no lyric sheet will give you access to their text; you put the music on, close your eyes, and dream your equivalent of the pond into existence. Bardo Pond has the outward specifications of a rock band — guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, occasional but crucial flute and violin and vocals — but the rivers that converge into the band's oneiric flow have their headwaters in the outlands of ecstatic jazz, free noise and the avant-garde. Their slow-motion avalanches of churning instrumentation and voice suggest drugged states but don't necessarily require them. They alter brain chemistry by the alchemical effect of distressed sound alone, aspiring to become engineers of the soul's passage to alternate states of consciousness. At the foundation of the pyramid, the drums of Jason Kourkounis and the bass of Clint Takeda lay down a sinewy, sexy and hypnagogic bottom end. At the centre of the pyramid, the twin guitars of John and Michael Gibbons send out emissaries of fire, flaying flesh from bone in a storm of holy liberation. Isobel Sollenberger inhabits the place where the pyramid meets the eye of their storm, weaving fibres of voice, flute and violin through the din.
I heard someone comment recently that the limits of music have now been defined, bracketed by John Cage's silence at one end and Merzbow's maximum noise at the other, leaving only the option of filling the spaces in between. Bardo Pond demonstrate how much scope there is to innovate within that continuum. If rock music is to have any relevance in the new millennium, it is bands like Bardo Pond that will make it so.