Since its 1995 release Bufo Alvarius, the Philly band Bardo Pond has consistently produced albums of beautifully layered, dreamy stoner rock that have gained it many dedicated fans, but never quite pushed it to the forefront of the indie scene. When the group signed to Matador in 1996, many thought it would be its time to gain wider respect. Four albums later, Bardo Pond is still waiting. But of all its Matador releases to date, Dilate seems the most likely to bring Bardo Pond its due. Equal parts spaced-out folk, riff-heavy psychedelia, and ambient experimentation, Dilate surpasses Bardo Pond's earlier albums in both beauty and scope and, without resorting to mere studio trickery, features the kind of attention to sonic detail that too few guitar-based groups attempt these days.
At the same time, Bardo Pond manages to sound as if it's trying to use its sonic experimentation to get at specific emotions, instead of letting that experimentation do it. The result is a raw, moody, and intricately wrought 70-plus minutes of music that, while plenty heavy at times, might be best described as beautifully meditative. That said, in spite of its beauty, Dilate isn't exactly breaking any new ground. Bardo Pond seems content to try to perfect the areas in which it already resides -- an admirable feat, particularly in these days when "experimental" can mean attempting to replicate the experimental music of 20 years ago. However, unless the music winds change direction, Bardo Pond's ascendancy to rock importance is a little unlikely -- at least for now.