utorak, 22. siječnja 2013.

Pelt – Effigy (2012)


The Wire ih zove hillbilly Theatre of Eternal Music.
Čovjek mora otkriti što to znači.

Effigy was a belly roar of Big American Music – full of chaos and ecstasy, full of joyful clamour. It was a work of excavation, its hands deep in the soil, in the fabric of national memory – the effigies of the title referring to the mounds that rise out of the landscape around Madison, Wisconsin, where the album was recorded live in 2011; it was also a work of mourning, a febrile celebration of the passing of Jack Rose, whose spirit floats like woodsmoke above the record’s rolling expanses. That it managed to explore these themes and avoid po-facedness and over-earnest dramatics is testament to those involved, and those it celebrated. - www.theliminal.co.uk/
MIE Music present Pelt's ecstatic outer-folk invocation 'Effigy', their first LP in three years, and, from the sounds of it, one of their best to date. Recorded live in a summer 2011 in an old yoga studio in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, and a decommissioned synagogue called the Gates of Heaven in nearby Madison, it's an epic sprawl of entirely acoustic recordings capturing the pioneering group divining esoteric journeys across mountainous, ancient terrain of cascading string dissonance, wheezing harmonium, plangent flute, cavity-vibrating chant and purposeful percussions billowing out in all directions. The record is testament to the ancient, animal shaped mounds called 'Effigy Mounds' of unknown provenance which are scattered around Madison, Wisconsin. Much like the mounds, Pelt's music instils an arcane awe and wonder to their witnesses, connecting with something much greater than themselves or the sum of their parts by dint of crude skill and will; they're vital, monolithic reminders of man's capacity for feats beyond simple cognition, yet somehow connect instinctively with a primal, psychedelic urge. If you've ever been in awe of Pelt's late, great Jack Rose, felt yourself ascending during a Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides, or enraptured by Richard Youngs, this is highly recommended to you.- boomkat

Though the late Jack Rose is obviously no longer with them, Mike Gangloff, Mikel Dimmick, and Patrick Best still make a joyful noise on Effigy, the first album Pelt's recorded since 2007. The group has been called (as noted in a recent in-depth profile in The Wire) the “hillbilly Theatre of Eternal Music”—not a bad starting point for contemplating Pelt's essence. The group recorded the album's seventy-two minutes in, so we're told, an “old yoga studio in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin and a decommissioned synagogue called the Gates of Heaven in nearby Madison.” The sequencing of the material is one of the album's strong points, with its seven pieces naturally split across the four vinyl sides, two tracks apiece on one, two, and four, and side three wholly given over to the long-form “Ashes of a Photograph.”
Theirs is a unique sound indeed, a head-turning supernova of country, folk, minimal drone, and Eastern musics. It would be hard to imagine any other outfit initiating a drone with the twang of a Jew's harp as occurs during “Ashes of a Photograph,” a shimmering colossus that most clearly presents Pelt as some newfangled version of LaMonte Young's Theatre of Eternal Music, especially when the piece includes wordless vocal drones.
Each track captures a slightly different aspect of the group's sound. “Of Jack's Darbari” bolts from the gate in a hellacious roar, all insistent piano pulses and sawing violins, the musicians ploughing into the material like farm workers sweating under a blazing summer's sun. Here and elsewhere, the strings appear as a seething, almost crazed swarm. “Wings of Dirt” blends Indian and hillbilly musics like it's the most natural thing in the world, with tabla-like hand percussion giving the music its Eastern quality and the violins and banjo the backcountry feel. A restrained drone meditation of shimmering character, “Spikes & Ties” sees Pelt laying down its strings and channeling dead spirits from amplified scrapes and rubbings of metal objects, while the fittingly titled “Last Toast Before Capsizing,” a cyclone of freewheeling piano runs and clattering percussion, is as topsy-turvy and turbulent as one would expect.
In the album's more ferocious moments, the violin's raw attack calls to mind the string playing of Tony Conrad and John Cale as documented on Inside The Dream Syndicate Volume I: Day Of Niagara (1965), for example. There's a quieter side to Pelt, too, however, and it's most audibly captured on the fourth side. Pelt first strips its sound down to its minimal essence for the gamelan-styled meditation “From the Lakebed,” a bells-heavy affair that also catches one's ear for the crawl to which its tempo eventually slows, before closing Effigy with “The Doctor's Nightcap,” one final example of Pelt's dream-laden rusticism. - www.textura.org/

The spirit of the late, great Pelt guitarist Jack Rose hangs noticeably over Effigy. "I carry Jack with me", band member Mikel Dimmick stated in a recent interview, and track titles like of 'Of Jack's Darbari' and 'Ashes Of A Photograph' seem to clearly reference Rose and his tragic passing at the age of 38. Musically, as well, Effigy is one of the most sombre albums in the entire Pelt canon. Where their previous high-water mark, Ayahuasca, balanced its noisier elements with beatific, relaxing moments of warmth and calm, Effigy is a brooding and intense listen, as if the quartet is trying to exorcise the ghosts of the past. Even the album's title, which references the famous Native American wildlife-shaped mounds of Dimmick's home state of Wisconsin, suggests the possibility of conjuring up departed spirits from the interstices in the band's interplay, or via the cosmic union of their instruments.
'Of Jack's Darbari' opens Effigy in a scattered cloud of dissonant violin scrapes and arhythmical guitar strumming before gradually settling into a suspended drone-filled raga. Displaying a focus reminiscent of Tony Conrad's Four Violins, founder members Mike Gangloff and Patrick Best, accompanied by new(er) members Dimmick and Nathan Bowles, release and re-seize their clustered notes, twisting them into circular loops that fray at the edges, as if the whole thing could collapse into noise at any moment. A piano slowly emerges from the tumult, but its repeated sound clusters are reminiscent of Charlemagne Palestine, becoming a symbiotic part of the overall drone vista.
Having jettisoned conventional structure years ago in favour of this monomaniacal form of maximalist just intonation, Pelt appear to be reaching new heights on Effigy, with each track a demonstration of the members' ability to listen to each other as they layer up their varied sounds. Even on 'Wings of Dirt', which starts with loping Appalachian banjo arpeggios, chirpy percussion and warm fiddle tones, soon peels these elements back onto themselves, with the strings see-sawing back and forth over the rhythm in a manner strongly redolent of Henry Flynt's "hillbilly" take on minimalism. 'Spikes & Ties' is built around chiming singing bowls and humming harmonium, its languid pace and mellow warmth a pensive reverse image of 'Wings of Dirt''s buzzing energy and reiterating Pelt's musical ties to Eastern musics such as Pran Nath's ragas or Indonesian Gamelan.
What is so singular about Pelt, and Effigy by inference, is that, for all these disparate musical strands that they seem to be tugging at (Appalachian country-folk, loft-suited minimal drone, Eastern spiritual music), they always sound fundamentally like themselves. The curiously-titled 'Last Toast Before Capsizing' features 11 minutes of percussive storm, with crashing cymbals, jiggling bells and bashed piano competing for space. In theory, its sprinklings of free improv and jazz textures should sound anachronistic alongside the dronier, more "rustic" works that surround it, but as it winds to a close, it somehow becomes imbued with the same becalmed spirit that ran through 'Spikes & Ties'. Tension released into quietude: maybe that's the secret behind Pelt's uniqueness. How they manage it whilst casting their ears in such disparate, but cohesive, directions is perhaps a mystery worth maintaining.
It all comes together beautifully on the 22-minute 'Ashes of a Photograph' which, considering the aforementioned references, starts almost jauntily with a plucky Jew's harp contrasting with the scythe-like violin to almost comical effect. Best's voice emerges out of the haze of increasingly dense strings, a wordless, emotionally-resonant chant that seems to call and respond to his companions' drones, like Marian Zazeela dueting with Tony Conrad and John Cale's violins on Day of Niagara, but with the context surrounding Pelt transforming his moans and chants into a baleful lament. Like those masters, the regularity (for want of a better word) of the musicians justly-applied notes and tones renders time elastic, distorting perception until the music becomes the focus of the body's impulses. For all their hillbilly sensitivities and rejection of the academic loftiness of a lot of minimalism, Pelt are still today's most visible descendents from that tradition. In fact, it's because they do not preoccupy themselves with high-minded concepts, and never detach themselves from their past, their souls and each other, that Pelt are able to create music that is as deeply thoughtful as their famed forbears, but also so immediately resonant with(in) the listener.
Effigy is a word that can mean many things, both within the context of Pelt's history, and to outside considerations of American history or global mythology. As an album, it crosses many boundaries whilst drawing them all together, and crystallises why these four guys remain one of the most important, affecting and interesting bands around.- Joseph Burnett 




Pelt's mix of traditional (acoustic instruments, folk/ethnic music traditions) and contemporary (about 1 million super-weird noise and avant-garde records) reached a new peak on Técheöd (supposedly pronounced "Tey-hoood" - corrections welcome). Using tamboura, guitar, violin, tabla, banjo, flute, lap steel, oscillator, voice, organ, and a variety of other instruments both conventional and home-made, Pelt issue forth a massive and extraordinary gust of sound. A logical follow up to 1997's well received Max Meadows CD, Técheöd captures the band at home in their living room, and live in Washington DC. "New Dehli Blues" leads off the record with 14 minutes of ecstatic indian-inspired modal trance. "Big Walker Mountain Tunnel" follows with its massive wall of sound tempered by a carefully stiched melodic motif. "Mu Mesons" finishes off the record with a home-cooking version of the type of tape-loop exotica explored by composers like Terry Riley and Steve Reich.


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