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Bardo Pond - Ticket Crystals

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Artist: Bardo Pond

Album: Ticket Crystals

Label: ATP

Review date: Jun. 10, 2006

Ticket Crystals is the most diverse effort of Bardo Pond’s 15-year existence, and not coincidentally, their finest. Philadelphia’s most psychedelic small band (the Sun Ra Arkestra has the town’s big band niche all wrapped up for all time) has always traded in contrasts, particularly those between vocalist Isobel Sollenberger’s echo-soaked flute and vocals, and John and Michael Gibbons’ wall of guitars. Here they also vary in density and style. “Destroying Angel” opens with a reflective, solitary acoustic statement, then tumbles like a volcano’s collapsing walls into a staggering, massive full-band blast lit from within by the disconsolate keening of Sollenberger and guest singer Christina Carter. They also juxtapose forwards and backwards motion; on “Lost Word,” guitars and chimes flicker in retreat across the stereo spectrum like a time-lapse movie of the day’s cloud movements run from dusk to dawn while Solenberger moans in advance of delicate picking, which in turn is dogged by dive-bombing electric distortion and woodwinds that pitch and weave like intoxicated sparrows.

In keeping with the band’s quasi-Buddhist name, there’s something pretty Tantric about Ticket Crystals. Songs take their time, withholding quick and easy pay-offs in order to build to a full-body throb of intertwining melodies and unfurling instrumental excursions. Tellingly, the best track is the longest, and also the farthest from Bardo Pond’s stoned trudge. On “FC II,” sawing violins and share murky space with watery wah-wah guitars while the rhythm section of Clint Takeda and Ed Farnsworth waxes almost dubby. Imagine Augustus Pablo mixing Tony Conrad and Faust’s Inside the Dream Syndicate with Miles Davis’s “He Loved Him Madly” and you’re almost there.

By Bill Meyer

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