Record Review 



Matador may not release many new bands outside the quirky and drone crowds, but at least they still have some of the best.

Mogwai and Bardo Pond, from Glasgow and Philadelphia, respectively, share some common influences: the Velvet Underground, My Bloody Valentine and labelmates Yo La Tengo. Both surround themselves in the same dark cloud of drugged ecstasy, reverb-drenched feedback haze and hushed ambience. On their latest albums, Mogwai's Rock Action and Bardo Pond's Dilate, what they leave behind for the most part is the squall that marked earlier albums.

On Rock Action, from an Iggy Pop lyric, Mogwai forego their former fascination with loud-soft dynamics in exchange for soft-soft dynamics. The songs now hum more than buzz. But while the songs no longer peak the equipment, they still build and crescendo heavenly. Songs such as "2 Rights Make 1 Wrong" use static to showcase subtler waves of garbled voices, flute, keys, horns, guitars, percussion and banjo. If attention to detail is the mark of a true professional, Mogwai, along with producer Dave Fridmann, should be named master craftsmen in some sonic smithy guild, as they heat the air while they slowly temper countless instruments.

Bardo Pond, a more traditionally textured band, also have toned down the pedals on Dilate, which appropriately uses a drug reference as a title. But while it's the deep black puddle of the doped pupil the band is referring to, Dilate itself doesn't really open the eyes or ears to much not seen or heard before. Dilate's increasingly minimalistic instrumental quiver -- which now reveals acoustic guitars and more sparsely swaddled vocals -- recalls Yo La Tengo without as much melodic resignation. Dilate slowly settles in like dusk, not with the force of a sky-obscuring storm, and it's a light, cleansing shower of sound, even if it isn't an awe-inspiring show of electricity.

Mogwai and Bardo Pond play the Variety Playhouse Tues., June 19.


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