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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

My Lullaby

Let me tell you: trainrides can be amazing when you're reading a very interesting book and listening to Bardo Pond and Tom Carter (latter being one part of Charalambides). I'm not really sure when this record was released (i'm only just now catching up on it) but I bet it was recorded in april last year because the title of the album is plain and simple "4/23/03". While there might be nothing fancy about the titles (the songs are just named after their length), the music is so damn overwhelming that its beautiful drones will guide you through the rest of your day.

Brad Rose of the wonderful music mag Foxy Digitalis was equally convinced of 4/23/03's greatness and I hope I'm allowed to reprint his article here:

When heavyweights get together for a relaxed evening of recording, you know something memorable is about to occur. Such was the case a year ago when Tom Carter was in Philadelphia staying with Bardo Pond. I've seen many one-off collaborations turn out disastrous, but sometimes things really click; sometimes a group of artists are just completely on the same wave length. In those instances, a truly memorable experience is created. On their own, Carter and Bardo Pond are each amazing sonic wizards. Their lush creations are full of atmosphere and life. When I heard they had collaborated, I was unprepared for the resulting compositions.

Sprawling over 65 minutes of complex, densely populated landscapes, "4/23/03" is a minor masterpiece. It is an adventure through the depths of the collective imagination of Carter and Bardo Pond. These pieces are long, but they are open and inviting. They ease the listener into their womb before allowing him/her to be fully engulfed. This record is truly massive. Rarely does one hear long drones like these that carry so much weigh on their shoulders. Each track is a struggle within itself; it's like this sound is trying to set itself, and the listener, free.

There are five total tracks here, all of which are over 10 minutes except the short "4:15." You can probably guess how long that one is. The length of the tracks gives them plenty of time to develop. It takes a lot of patience to let the music dictate where it's going and when it's going to get there, but Carter and Bardo Pond do just that. Nothing here is rushed. The aforementioned "4:15" is the most melodic track. It may be short, but it leaves a lasting impression. Carter skirts over the top of a thick river of molasses laid down by BP. A massive glob of low-end, bass drones hum along underneath everything; it's the foundation and gives Carter a shifting environment to explore with his guitar. Midway through, it sounds as if there is a UFO taking off and landing in their living room. It's fitting, though, as these recordings expand toward space. There's no way a living room in Philadelphia could contain these beasts.

On the fantastic closing track, "19:43" (it's also the longest piece here), things unfold slowly, but the overall effect of this piece climbs mountains. It's huge. Isobel Sollenberger's beautiful voice is the key to this piece, and are the only vocals on this album. Her voice hovers like a guardian angel watching over the proceedings, making sure nothing goes awry. This is also the only track in which she employs her flute. It acts as a guide, leading everyone else out of the fog and into the light. As they travel over mountains and through valleys of ambient sound, the final destination appears before them. Like an apple in their eye, they take it, devour it, and throw away the core. This is music that leaves everything on the table. The intensity of the session is audible on every strained note.

Throughout "4/23/03," the most impressive aspect is how Carter's guitar playing mixes with Bardo Pond's music. While obvious similarities exist, they seem to have very different approaches. Bardo Pond's albums are usually filled with a boat-load of effects that thicken their sound. Carter chooses a no-nonsense approach of stripped-down, clean guitar. Because of this, it is easy to distinguish his playing on this record. It's this clash of approaches that makes this record so great, though. Neither artist is willing to give an inch, and in that battle they produce some startling sounds. There's this sense that Carter is Bardo Pond's conscience, keeping them firmly grounded in reality. On certain moments, without his clean, crisp guitar, these tracks would lose it and just drift into nothingness.

In a year that has been full of amazing music, it only gets better. "4/23/03" is easily one of the most amazing documents I've heard so far. This is music with a soul. It may be buried under a mountain of space rock, but at its core, this album is warm and alive. In a world where many collaborations produce less-than-desirable results, Tom Carter and Bardo Pond avoid any pitfalls with grace. These five tracks are spellbinding. Anyone with a fleeting interest in improvised music would be well advised to add this to their collection. Magnificent.
(c) all rights reserved, Brad Rose and Foxy Digitalis

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