Bardo Pond + Tom Carter - "4:15" (4/23/03 (+ 4/25/03))
If you’ve an impatient bone in your body, Bardo Pond isn’t going to work for you. The Gibbons Bros.’ music moves glacially, applying pressure slowly but firmly, taunting the listener with endless delayed climaxes. It’s accumulative rock, driven forward with heavy force. It’s also, in the right frame of mind, some of the most hallucinatory music of the past two decades.
Given that could also be a pretty accurate description of Charalambides circa Market Square, this collaboration makes as perfect sense now as it did when first released, back in 2004. Three Lobed have upgraded the CD to a beautiful double-vinyl package, with a screen-printed sleeve, one extra track on the vinyl, and an entire extra live disc, 4/25/03, to sweeten the deal. Reissue culture may have gone mad recently, but 4/23/03 deserves the double-vinyl treatment, really, as its epic scale feels just right for the format. It also allows time to absorb each side as its own beast, which helps articulate the peculiar alchemy at work between these six players.
Loosely put, Charalambides’ Tom Carter and Bardo go at it from two angles: monolithic rockist momentum, or drifting, languorous improvised repose. They nail the first early on, when “17:40” leaves its naked blues licks behind and very gracefully breaks a sweat, with great walls of fuzzed-out guitars swamping the audio spectrum. This is something Bardo Pond perfected early on: the ability to make the interaction of three guitars, their frequencies moving through space, take on such incredible density that they metamorphose into something tactile, object-like. Carter slips into their stream pretty easily, though you can hear the revenant blues of his solo playing shine through in the hammer-ons, slide playing and percussive clamor he strips from the body of his guitar.
But the most pregnant moments on 4/23/03 come when Carter and Bardo drop the rock and wade out onto less structured shores. Both “10:24” and “13:07” has them stretching long and loose, clipping phrases from six strings, sending stray notes out on an oil slick of static and hum. It’s very much improvised music that is content to “just be,” stretching moments out to make minutes. Given culture’s current state of perpetual acceleration, it’s nice to hear players who are happy to sit out the game of speed and instead dive deep into their inter-relationships. Sometimes they manage to do all of that with the force of rockist movement, as on “19:43.” (As an aside, I’ve always thought it odd that so much music that’s about freedom, and more “natural” modes of interacting within the musical sphere, gets so heavily programmatic when it comes to track titles. It’s like conceptual art by stealth.)
The extra live set, 4/25/03, stretches out across 60 minutes, capturing the full warp and weft of the six players’ co-habitation. (It feels like they’ve simply imported the Bardo Pond practice space into the venue.) It’s a great listen in and of itself, though it’s what came “before” that really does the damage. As a relatively new fan of Bardo Pond, I still feel I can get away with the enthusiasm of the initiate, but no matter when you first turned on, this is a great set of group-thought moving in real-time, and a fine way to lose two hours.