Review: Fungal Abyss – Bardo Abgrund Temple

Of course, one can choose to plunge into the abyss as well. Bardo Abgrund Temple was improvised and recorded under the influence of Teonanacatl (the Aztec term for Psilocybe, meaning “divine mushroom”), and perhaps there’s something to be gained from the listener consuming the mushroom too, as a way of aligning the mental states of the creators and the receiver; a way of empathising with the band’s hallucinatory logic and seeing “sense” where the clean mind may see none. This reviewer has chosen to merely peer over the edge and listen to the album in unaltered consciousness. My contact with the Teonanacatl comes via band themselves, its voice channelled through players and their instruments and ultimately manifesting as four lengthy, unedited psychedelic jams.

And I use the term “psychedelic” in both a literal and a musical sense, as the album is fuelled by the FX and dynamic with which psychedelic music is most synonymous: mantra-like rhythmic repetition, guitars and synthesizers spiralling into delay/reverb-drenched freeform, blistering wah pedal screams. The ascent is gradual but incessant, pushing the bar skyward in a manner that continually places the intensity peak beyond reach; the listener can only really acknowledge the climaxes once they begin to tumble gently down the other side, with the music being dismantled with the same patience with which it was assembled, peeling off the seemingly endless array of musical layers until just a restless haze of residual hiss is left.

Thankfully, there are at least a few morsels of distinctive character (derived from the personnel or the drug? Who knows) that keep Bardo Abgrund Temple from replicating what drug music is already known to induce. Many of these arise during the opening minutes of each piece, when each player appears to stagger upon aimless paths before gradually converging into mutual rhythm and tonality parallels. Lost feedback groans and loose cymbal chime evoke something of a fungal fog – thick and dizzying, devoid of tempo and yet to materialise from vibrant blurs of colour into actual shapes. Engrossing stuff for sure, although it would have been nice to have experienced more of the Teonanacatl’s own distinctive flavour throughout.