Thursday, July 06, 2006

Brightblack Morning Light/S-T/8.2
Bardo Pond/Ticket Crystals/6.2

The repetitions feel like minimalism, but it unfurls like the sleepiest loner psych.

Bardo Pond have always been at their best when they allow themselves to collapse into their non-linear, highly improvised drone rock rather than put too much focus on compositional structure.

The past week on the East Coast has been hot and rainy. The week before the fourth was a mix of hot, humid days with intermittent downpours. The inescapable perspiration, prickly heat, and the long days drag along until a storm comes in, dropping the air temperature and breaking the still heat with a torrent of water and the rumble of thunder. A week or so ago, I wondered if this would be the summer of twee, but after last week’s heat and a quick stock of recent releases, I think 2006 is looking to be a summer of psychedelic rock.

Brightblack Morning Light may have connections to the freak-folk scene, but their self-titled Matador debut has a strong electric vibe. Stosuy sees a connection in their music to the Royal Trux, but really Brightblack Morning Light has soaked in a strong R&B vibe, making me think of Funkadelic and Shuggie Otis records played at a full speed too slow. The first track (and MP3 single) “Everybody Daylight” has drowsy vocals over a slow Rhodes piano groove, hand claps and funk drum line. It wonderfully combines soul and stoner rock. “Friend of Time” starts with percussion then rolls into boogie-woogie piano and slide guitar then vocals then a trombone solo. While Brightblack Morning Light may hand with Devendra and Joanna, they’re far more blues than folk. Their instrumentation also is more rock than folk; it’d take a mighty long power cord to drag that Rhodes and guitar amp next to a campfire.

Brightblack Morning Light carries out this vibe flawlessly. However, the ten tracks on the record quickly blend into each other. I actually started listening to the album on vinyl, playing two or three songs a side. Once I got all of the tracks on my digi-music-thingy, I found it hard to make it through all of them. The band is like a basketball player that flawlessly sinks a three point shot from the same place on the court again and again. The first time you see the ball drop through the net, you’re in awe. Seeing it happen three or four more times, your chin drops. But after an hour of watching the same shot made over and over, you wish for a slam-dunk or even a lay up. That sameness makes it hard for me to feel the same 8.1 that Stosuy feels. Brightblack Morning Light does what they do very well, but I’d shave a full point off the record for a lack of variety. Their record captures the slow, droning heat and humidity of a summer day but with no thunderstorm or rain to cut the heat.

On the other hand, Bardo Pond’s latest Ticket Crystals captures a thunderstorm and the quiet afterwards. The opening cut Destroying Angel starts with a few chords strummed on an acoustic guitar then bursts out in thunderclaps of distorted guitar. For folks who prefer the gentleness of Brightblack Morning Light’s vibe, Bardo Pond’s music is a much harsher buzz. However, I like my psychedelia with plenty of overdrive. I found the long tracks had enough storm and stillness to justify the length.

The tricky thing for me is slapping a number on Ticket Crystals. I like it better than Brightblack Morning Light’s record, but find it on par with their past releases. The previous albums rated around a 7, but this record feels a little more than that to me. I guess a 7.2ish would do okay. In any event, Bardo Pond delivers a summer storm of psychedelic music that rumbles, crashes and drones. For a sumer thunderstorm of rock, I recommend Ticket Crystals, through a few tracks from Brightblack Morning Light here and there will help you mellow out.