Bardo Pond - Peace on Venus (3 stars)

Ninth album from veteran stoner space rockers sounds gloriously messed up

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Bardo Pond - Peace on Venus

(Fire Records)

Where a lot of bands coyly beat about the bush as to how much drugs may or may not have influenced their music, since forming in 1991 veteran stoner space rockers Bardo Pond have pretty much written hallucinogenic substances into their raison d’être, with albums titled after magic mushrooms (Amanita) and psychoactive toads (Bufo Alvarius, Amen 29:15) and side-projects called things like 500mg, Hash Jar Tempo and LSD Pond. Not exactly a Saturday morning telly kind of band, then.

If you’ve never necked a shitload of strong acid before skipping freely across the cosmos from the comfort of your couch, only to awaken a couple of days later naked in the middle of a forest, try listening to the Philadelphians’ ninth album on repeat for several hours – probably a decent sonic approximation of the experience – and save yourself the ignominy. At just five tracks in length Peace on Venus may on first glance leave you feeling like you’ve been a bit short-changed. But note that the briefest song ‘Taste’ still lasts almost five minutes, and the longest two – kaleidoscopic closers ‘Chance’ and ‘Before The Moon’ – are just under 11-minutes apiece, as vocalist Isobel Sollenberger’s wraithlike wail and trippy flute lines tussle at great length with Michael and John Gibbons’ squalls of freeform guitar noise, while Jason Kourkonis’ drumming and Clint Takeda’s basslines slowly move everything along with the earth-tremblingly staggering gait of a drunk giant.

If – to borrow a certain iconic catchphrase from Bardo Pond’s psychedelic forbears Spacemen 3 – ‘taking drugs to make music to take drugs to’ sounds like a creative cop out, it’s really not. This quintet have made a fine art of sounding gloriously messed up these last 22 years and counting. Try the astounding ‘Fir’ for proof – between megaton distortion and gaseous hisses of feedback, it’s as if the Gibbons brothers are trying to recreate the sound of the Big Bang with guitars.

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