Selections: Volumes I-IV

Hip-hop has mixtapes while modern psychedelia has the limited-edition CD-ROM release -- the same principle applies, though, in terms of getting music out there, beyond "official" efforts as such. Bardo Pond are up through six collections of experiments and jams as of mid-2005, with Selections, Vol. 1-4 being just that, a sampling of the first four of these often-wonderful releases. Given that Bardo Pond's raisons d'être are indeed long improvisations recorded as they happen, it's not entirely a sudden steering away in style, but this two-disc collection generally emphasizes the strictly musical side of the band, with Isobel Sollenberger contributing only fragmentary lyrics or gentle croons on the singing front (her flute work is often prominent, in contrast). Where she does come more to the fore, as with "E Dub," she can provide an almost startling focus to the compositions, but she is more content here to go with the flow, or rather, to be carried along with it. Starting with the sample-laden, slow-and-low "Sit Sleep," Selections, Vol. 1-4 touches on everything from (relatively) short edits to extremely long, detailed jams. If anything, the collection shows that far from simply having a one-note approach, the quintet can take basic principles and use them to test out a variety of approaches towards doing one's brain in, from monstrous demi-metal riffs to near-minimalist flow and hum. The ten-minute "Before," for instance, relies on an ominous mantra/melody crossed with violent solos and steady, increasingly forceful drumming, while "Montana Sacra" has its core drone acting as a base for a series of squalling if still restrained acid rock solos, a continual trading off. "Lomand" probably shows the most variety over its own length, from majestic descending riffs and drones to seemingly endless drift.

Words - Ned Raggett -