Bondo - Print Selections (Album Review)

LA-based four-piece Bondo make delicately robust music on their debut album Print Selections. If "delicately robust" sounds like an oxymoron to you, that's because it is. The group's music is contradictory in that it is both gentle and edgy, innocent and sinister, and lulls the listener into a strange world full of rudimentary riffs, barely-sung vocals, and workhorse percussion. There are references to be made to Unwound, Polvo, and Slint in Bondo's darkly lit post-rock, but this group seems uninterested in ticking any boxes, and most of Print Selections sounds highly expressionistic. Following 2021's 77 EP, the eight tracks on the group's first full-length album whizz by in an alluring stew of moody jams and slacker intentions that can disorient your day. 

From the slowcore opening track "Container", a short and hypnotic blast of bass tones, wandering guitars, and excellent hi-hat work that sets out the mission for the album (shroud accessible ostinatos in clouds of abstraction), to the closing track "Pipecleaner", which sees amplifier noise and low-in-the-mix guitars colour a piece led by simple and pulsating drums. 

It can sometimes feel like it lacks substance, as though you're talking to someone incapable of forming coherent sentences. This doesn't render the album unenjoyable. On the contrary, this ambiguity means the music is open to interpretation. The listener can attach import to the oscillations of "Mind Room" or beauty to the frailty of "New Brain", essentially a straight-forward rock song in disguise, obscured by passages that go on longer than their notation warrants.  

"Egoizing" offers the group's most carefully packaged and memorable effort, as a simple melody is doubled by the guitar and voice before the guitars engage in deceptively complex counterplay. "Instrument" is the fastest track, though the timing seems to fluctuate as much as the message of the music. This album was self-produced by the band, who have lent their slacker personality to proceedings. This is most clearly heard in the In Uteroesque discordance of "Zion Gate" or the childlike snappiness of "Lo Tek", which takes less than two minutes to bop up and down with whack-a-mole uncertainty. 

Print Selections is not an instantly likeable album, nor an easily digestible one. However, allow these jams to slowly stew in the brain, and you'll be rewarded with a contagiously unaffected attitude.