Bardo Pond’s brand of psychedelia is like a multi-armed sonic goddess that plays several genres in the cosmic spectrum all at once. That may sound like it would lead to inaudible nonsense and noise, but they have been pressing all of this into a digestible tablet of sound for a quarter of a century. Their new album is titled Under the Pines. It displays the complexity of Bardo Pond’s sound, and how they are able to administer this complexity to the senses without resistance. That isn’t to say that this is smooth-light-hearted-sunny-psych-pop, it is heavier, harder, and more awe-inspiring. They fit all of their elements in a special package that harmonizes with the listener so that all of the intricacies dissolve properly without causing pandemonium to the senses.
The album opens with “Crossover” which is a standard stoner/psych/noise-rock track. It is as if they are holding the album in a tight grip, and don’t let go until the end of the song. The rest of album flows out from that point on. The next track, “Out of Reach,” has the energy of an initial surge after releasing the floodgates but the mellowness of small stream. The bass is fuzzy and slow, and the guitars add noisy textures that massage the synapses; this allows Sollenberger’s psychoactive voice, drenched in reverb and delay, seep into your mind, and the for the drums to take over your body. Half way through this ten minute sonic adventure, they pick up the pace and transcend into a noisy paradise. Mismatched and out-of-time vocal delays, the drums begin to sound confused yet while still holding it together, the guitars rummage through a pile of gazed upon shoes, while the bass, accompanying the drums, remains upbeat in the confusion.
“Moment to Moment” has that scintillating quality found in psychedelic music that captures light reflecting off of water. It has shimmering guitars, bright and rotary, an acoustic that slides around, a slow drumbeat with light cymbal play, and a steady bass line that keeps the song structure wavy and revolving. It begins with a slow jam, and about four minutes in a flute joins the movement. Along with the flute, there is a layer of noise with a foundation of glistening feedback, and the song continues on this wavy spiral as it builds intensity. It never becomes climactic, or has an over-dramatic moment, but rather remains just enough to remain excitedly couch-locked. Following this sunny, lying in the grass style, track is “Under the Pines.” This song has a hint of a tenebrous feel to it, in the psychedelic sense of course, but has a constant bright sense that keeps a balance all along the way. It is placed perfectly in the album; it tones the atmosphere down like a song towards the end of set of an outdoors show to bring things down a bit. The sound is abrasive with a blistering guitar that grinds through its scratchy solo, but the layers of smooth vocals and fuzzy bass frequencies soften the blow.
Under The Pines is psychedelic in that it musically infiltrates the listener’s perception, but it is beyond just psychedelic from a musical standpoint. It captures elements from classic psych-rock, space-rock, kraut-rock, and is progressive in nature, but it is embodied by the rough edges of noise-rock and shoegaze. It is grounded with its heavy-psychedelia, yet lifted by a cloud of dreamy attributes as well. This is what makes Bardo Pond’s breed of experimentation stand out from the rest, and it what makes Under the Pines, along with the rest of their vast discography, a unique and enjoyable listen.