Baikal Baikal

[Important; 2007]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: psychedelic burn-out, stoner rock, ’60s acid rock
Others: Acid Mothers Temple, Bardo Pond, Egypt in the Magick #

Every time I sit down to digest psychedelia in all its glory, I always question the Grateful Dead fascination of each crop of collegiate hippies that meanders in and out of the U.S. educational system. By embracing a band and ethos their parents probably hugged tightly during their formative years, they fail to reach the hippie Zen that they seem enthralled to reach. This isn't a knock on the Grateful Dead or necessarily their fan base, but just an observation. You'd think just as often as someone slips these nu-hippies acid, they could just as easily slip them an Acid Mothers Temple or Sunburned Hand Of The Man LP. I know the world of underground music is littered with rare, limited, often hard-to-find shit, but let's be honest: if a subculture can embrace bittorrent technology to trade live Phish and Dead shows, you'd think they'd have the where-with-all to stumble across a slow burner such as Baikal's self-titled disc. Or perhaps they have and just hold some grudge against Bardo Pond members for scarfing down the last fat-free granola tofu bar without notice.

And yes, Baikal might as well be named Another Bardo Pond Side Project Containing the Majority of Bardo Pond and Their Friends. (It's a long band name for sure, but there's just something extremely catchy about it, and you know there's going to be some downer who must prove his/her wealth of musical knowledge by correcting you should you misplace or skip over the necessary Ps and Qs.) Rest assured: you will find comfort in Baikal's scorching psychedelia. Aso rest assured that by the time most of the Phish heads have forgotten the last three or four songs played on a well-worn bootleg, you'll still be savoring the 30+ minute "I Forgot," and not once will you find yourself counting the number of times some dude has played the same lick in a 10-minute span. Brothers John and Michael Gibbons have transformed stoner rock into a transcendental experience -- no weed or acid required (though they wouldn't hurt).

For so long now, we've been programmed to believe winding solos and tired blues licks were all it took to turn an ordinary band into a '60s-influenced jam band weaned on Hendrix and the Big Brother Holding Company. The Gibbons brothers, along with Bardo Pond chums, have managed to turn psychedelia into fuzz, drone, and -- most important of all -- balls to the fuckin' wall rock 'n' roll. Although the two tracks from Baikal's self-titled release are brimming with sludge that could turn any Timothy Leary disciple into a rainbow puddle, there's nary a scant of Deadhead or Phish wankery to be found. This album isn't about who can improv the nastiest solo or create the harshest riff, but how a music so stigmatized and pigeonholed is able to be sculpted into a work of acid art. Baikal is the crossroads where hippie meets metal, where jam meets grunge. An album that fans of Earth and the Dead can enjoy equally for just as many different reasons as for the same.

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