What makes Dilate a unique album? Chiefly the unprecedented dynamic range.
Isobel Sollenberger's voice -- previously hidden deep in the mix -- is
brought to the forefront while the churning guitar noises produced by
brothers John and Michael Gibbons move from their usual window-rattling
volume to a subterranean rumble. Best of all, Bardo Pond isn't afraid
to pump up the acoustic elements, including guitar, violin and flute.
This combination makes it sound as if the next-door neighbors are throwing
their own noise festival while a ghost whispers riddles in your ear.
Dilate opens gently with "Two Planes," which features a near-comatose
guitar strum backed by a methodical violin. By the time the purposeful
drumming kicks in, lending an air of ballad-like importance to the collage
of sound, you'd do well to surrender the next 74 minutes to the destructive
feedback that arrives like a pair of renegade F-16s. On "Sunrise,"
you have the feeling that Isobel is trying to communicate something very
profound, yet after an examination of her cryptic lyrics (printed on the
liner notes), her vocals sound more like an interior monologue. It's creepy
and sublime. "Swig" -- a broken Indian raga that can't quite
find its central drone -- is more anxious than soothing. The track is
tempered by flute trills that sound as though they might as well have
been played by a passing breeze.
Despite the roar, Dilate is a rich and sublime beauty, one that's best taken lying down. This isn't to say that the album will render you completely useless. You could enjoy it while going about everyday activities (such as making tea or opening the blinds), but I wouldn't recommend listening while operating heavy machinery.
westword.com | originally published: May 31, 2001