Essential New Music: Bitter Wish’s “Candle Finger”

Based on the evidence of issued recordings, Bardo Pond seems to have ceased making music. While archival releases continue to surface, the Philadelphia combo’s last album of new material was released in 2017. But that doesn’t mean its members are done creating. Take bassist Clint Takeda, for example. In the past few years, he has presented both previously unreleased and pseudonymous records through the Carbon label, which has now unleashed the debut LP by Bitter Wish.

But it would be a mistake to call Bitter Wish Takeda’s band; it’s a collective enterprise, and it wouldn’t be the same if any of its members were swapped out. Drummer Scott Verrastro has forged a connection with Takeda while playing in various Bardo Pond side projects and filling in on live dates, but he’s also helmed the similarly lysergic Kohoutek. Whether building tension with barely audible textures or explosively dispelling it with a dinosaur stomp, his grasp of dynamics is key to the success of the two linked, side-long pieces on Candle Finger. His unhurried-yet-unshakable cadences give Takeda license to navigate tangential melodic flights or gore the earth with big, bludgeoning tones. And while guitarist John Comune lacks an established pedigree, he brings what it takes to make music like this succeed, matching an endless stream of decorative and thematic ideas to a paradoxically light-fingered attack that balances out the surrounding heaviness.

Take care not to get too close to that candle; its lure is irresistible, but it burns. [Carbon]

—Bill Meyer