Sliding into focus on the back of a bittersweet piano melody, the swell of the instrumental harmony in “Old Theory of Love” is indeed one of the more inspired moments in Eric Anders’ and Mark O’Bitz’s American Bardo, but believe it or not, it’s just a taste of what these two musicians have to offer in their all-new collaboration. Comprised of a dozen tracks that fuse elements of Americana and a strain of alternative folk that seems to have more in common with post-rock’s surreal side than it does anything in the genre’s old school history, American Bardo is an eclectic effort to say the least. Anders and O’Bitz hold nothing back from their experimentations, and while it’s a left of the dial-style effort without question, it’s also one of the smartest indie offerings I’ve listened to this summer.
ERIC ANDERS: https://www.andersobitz.com/
Everything in this LP seemingly revolves around balance; instrumentation and lyrics (“And One Love,” “Judgement Day”), emotions both personal and observed (“Haunting Abraham,” “Holding Will,” “Won’t Live It Down”) and even production grit and polish (the stunning “My Love,” “Life’s Beauty Won”). The constant forced-juxtaposition would usually get a little mundane by the halfway mark in the tracklist of most any other album, but it never happens with American Bardo for a combination of reasons. For one, it’s obvious that all of the passion here is authentic, but more importantly, the fluidity of the tracklist predicts any of the themes – compositional and artistic the same – from becoming too domineering over the general narrative here.
The first act in American Bardo is a little more reserved in tone than the second is, but if you ask me, creative duality is precisely the reason why so many people have found the collaborations Eric Anders and Mark O’Bitz have engaged in together to be as impactful as they have. There’s a different dynamic and dimension to most every track here – “Bardo Cons” wears the look of surrealism in an entirely different way than “Bury Me” or “Matterbloomlight (Revisited)” do, but they sit together in this record as though they were always meant to be absorbed at the same time within the same sitting. Anders and O’Bitz bring out the best in each other, and that much is obvious even from a distance in American Bardo.
ABOUT THE DUO: https://www.andersobitz.com/music
I was only somewhat familiar with the ongoing project these two artist have been developing over the last couple of years prior to acquiring this latest LP for myself, but its twelve-song treasure chest of tone and texture has definitely piqued my interest in future work they produce together. Eric Anders and Mark O’Bitz have quite the résumé both separately and together, and though theirs is definitely not the only indie folk/rock album that you should be listening to this summer, it’s undisputedly one of the most mature and emotionally forward to have landed on my desk in the month of August. Simply put, American Bardo is another unmissable hit from the minds of two incredibly skilled sonic poets.
by Kendell Townsend