There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Unlike a bongload of other neopsychedelic outfits, Bardo Pond eschews cutesy, Sgt. Pepper’s-style sound collagery and acid lyricism for guitar-driven explorations into inner space. The Philadelphia five-piece, which has been making music for your inner Timothy Leary since the early ’90s, evokes Amon Düül II with its extended free-form forays, and guitar-playing brothers Michael and John Gibbons have an even better drone than my high-school civics teacher. And unlike that poor excuse for an educator, they understand the beauty of incivilityafter all, what’s the point of the pretty parts if you can’t shove ’em aside with the ugly ones? If their sixth proper LP, On the Ellipse, is a bit more muted than the average Bardo Pond disc, it’s still the perfect gift for anybody who’s ever bitched about Spiritualized’s not being spacey enough. The album-opening “JD,” for example, is one long haunting guitar note around which vocalist/flautist Isobel Sollenberger weaves her sensual voice until the song opens like a weird flower and strobe lights begin to flash in the back of your skull. Similarly, “Every Man” opens with some acoustic guitar and lyrics about how “Every man is a star” before exploding into a sinuous jam that pits Sollenberger’s otherworldly flute against the Gibbons’ Sabbath-heavy wank. It’s an alluring combination, very Pipers at the Gates of Dawn, and I can only hope that it becomes the national anthem of a new generation of wake-and-bakers who flunk out of college because they spend too much time grokking the Dr. Seuss-like character on the CD cover. But the album’s highlight is “Night of Frogs,” a 13-minute journey to the center of your stash that has drummer Joe Culver bashing away at his cymbals like a kid playing Whack-a-Mole and the brothers Gibbons trying to bludgeon their way to bliss with nothing but a pair of fuzz guitars and certain way with feedback. It, too, builds up ever so slowly from quietude, but that’s hardly a problem: As Sollenberger & Co. clearly understand, you don’t have to be innovative to be mind-blowing. Michael Little