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Bardo Pond - Cypher Document 1

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Artist: Bardo Pond

Album: Cypher Document 1

Label: Three Lobed

Review date: Jul. 24, 2005

The Internet is a wonderfully efficient way for bands to get their music to the people, but it has its limits, not least among them being the compression factor. Reduced to files, everything sounds a little smaller, a little thinner. Is there any band less suited to the mp3 format than Bardo Pond? They're volume dealers – you haven't really heard the Philadelphia-based until you've felt them move some air, and who can do that with a pair of computer speakers? So this CD, which compiles some highlights from the series of MP3 singles they released in 1999-2000, is a welcome step in the right direction. Even better, it favors the free-form jams that have tended to get short shrift on their higher-profile releases.

Cypher Document 1's seven tracks stretch 75 minutes, and they are not wasted. The disc opens with "Living Testament," a patented slice of the band in slow-motion head-banging mode. Guitars slash and twist, bass and drums stumble like a grizzly bear that's eaten the honey slide stash and wants to find more, and vocalist Isobel Sollenberger's moans too low for radar to see. "Slag" is even slower; between its beats yawn deep black chasms barely illuminated by bullroarer-like synths. "Nomad" throttles back the intensity a few notches; Mongolian fiddle rasp and heavily echoed bass twine like thick, amorous serpents.

And so it goes through three more manageably sized tracks in which the group never lapses into actual song, but sticks close enough to a single audio zone that you can take it in without your mind splitting open. That pleasure is left to the half-hour "From The Sky," which wheels round and round, its layers of flutes and feedback like orbiting scythes forged from alien ores. Lie back on the couch, put one foot on the floor, and turn out the lights; this'll do the rest.

By Bill Meyer

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