Bardo State (Elefant Traks)
The fourth album from Sydney duo producer Adit (Adit Gauchan) and rapper MC Solo (Nick Bryant-Smith) is a self-described “mature” album.
Its themes turn to the kind of life choices you have to make when choices mean more than whether to stay for the next drink/toke and do you crash here or somewhere else. So, you know, serious stuff.
How serious? Well the album title is taken from the original name of the Tibetan Book Of The Dead – popular source material in western music of course since John Lennon sang ‘I know what it’s like to be dead’.
A book too whose referencing is usually a sign that the writer borrowing from it has had some awakening, is growing up, or at least wants to show some spiritual depth.
As such Solo spreads his interests widely, from sex (not previously a regular topic of Horrorshow conversation) and the tricky state of denial Australia lives in with racism (a regular topic of Horrorshow conversation) to a definite lecturing tone on the stupidities of pointless excess and the value of living at all if you’re not contributing beyond knowing how to make a spare million.
Those concerns are important steps for any act, not just one which arrived as wunderkinds signed by Elefant Traks seemingly before they could shave.
And Solo – who opens the album telling us “this is my time …. I’m hitting my stride” - has been building to this, never really being an empty party starter but always a considered contributor, wising up progressively.
There’s a lot to like about his direction here, even if there are a few times when the insights are fair but hardly revelatory. But let’s put him aside for a minute and check out Adit because Bardo State is a 64 minute signal that if anyone is hitting his stride right now it is him.
Immerse yourself in these tracks and you’ll be constantly brought up by simple and complex sonic moves that don’t advertise themselves; they just do their job.
There’s expected space and echoey moments in Astray and the claustrophobic Ceiling Fan, and slow twirling synths and percussion in Our Time - tracks which are all about the noise not made.
Next to them are squirly electronic tones and bursts of thick “choir” moments in Non-Stop, and dub references balanced by almost sharp interjections in Wasteland.
But take note also of the rich tones he’s given Solo’s voice in How We Get Down, while some New York disco sneaks in in the background, and then more straightforward disco sounds (sample? Live?) in Eat The Cake which cast an ear back to classic early hip hop roots.
Or sink into the pop richness of Never Say Never, where I swear there’s actual twinkling, and the ‘90s smoothness of Cherry Blossom, for the aural equivalent of some chaps slipping on a sharp suit and dancing in unison.
There’s a level of sophistication in Adit’s constructions that subtly keep the songs progressing.
For example, in After Dark, where Hayley Mary of the Jezabels offers a sweet chorus, the slow suggestion of tension in the airy background of what appears to be regulation drum beat/churchy feel early on, shifts about two minutes in when everything else drops out but that echo chamber.
It’s immediately sharpened and tension is high without any need to crank up it up artificially, and though the song soon switches back into its prettier mode, the point has been made and colours the song thereafter.
On the other side of that emotional line, Push offers a dose of well-judged sensitivity, lightening the mood just enough so that what threatens to be an over-played hand actually feels like a genuinely soul-lifting turn.
Maturity comes in more ways than advice on living, take downs of right wingnuts and a recognition that the heart wants what the heart wants. Thanks to Adit, Horrorshow cover those bases and more with Bardo State.