The title of this Brave Mysteries release is fairly self-explanatory; it’s a live recording of one of America’s most essential psychedelic folk bands performing in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2012. Pelt hails from Richmond, Virginia and was originally formed by violinist Mike Gangloff. Over the course of two-dozen releases and several lineup changes, Pelt has become a fixture in the North American “free-folk” / New Weird America scene (along with No-Neck Blues Band, Jackie-O-Motherfucker, Sunburned Hand of the Man, and several others), a term that certain Wire magazine columnists invented in the mid-2000s, echoing a similar phenomenon of British music journalists coining the derisive term “Krautrock” to encompass the wide variety of inventive new sounds emerging out of late-’60s and early-’70s Germany. The cover artwork is a winter’s night scene of assorted succubi and incubi struggling to ensnare the sleepers within an otherwise peaceful home. This period of darkness and the veil between worlds being especially thin is a fitting theme for this recording. Perhaps there is a struggle between humanity and unseen forces, or perhaps there is an invitation to warm our dull winter’s slumber with a wet dream, regardless of the cost to our souls. There’s also an excerpt of a beautiful poem by Thomas S. Garlinghouse that explores the concept of ancient spirits forgotten in the modern age, biding their time to rise from their hidden burial mounds.
There’s some gorgeous, ecstatic, and creative improvisation captured on this tape. Encompassing that distinct collision between the circular movement of raga and the wandering gusto of American folk tonality, Pelt moves into territory that Tony Conrad explored in his early days. The three pieces on this document show the variety and range of approach employed by the five players present at this winter concert. Where “Wings of Dirt” explores a free-flowing harmonic approach, “Last Toast Before Capsizing” has pianos falling apart at the seams and dissonant percussion chiming in at odd intervals that didn’t resound with me as much due to their aimless quality. Shimmering bells, interweaving violins, and trembling piano melodies collide in a wondrous drone throughout the course of “A Sketch of Jack’s Darabi.” One can’t help but think that the track title is a reference to deceased former member Jack Rose, who passed away in 2009.
There’s no denying the sense of joy and freedom that comes across in The Eighth Day, the Eleventh Month, the Two-Thousand & Twelfth Year, and it’s entirely captivating at certain moments. Echoes of minimalists influenced by Eastern music like Terry Riley, Michael Harrison, and La Monte Young flow throughout these three improvisations. Many thanks to the folks at Brave Mysteries for documenting this evening’s proceedings so that the rest of us would have an opportunity to experience the magic that is crafted in person by Pelt.
A1) Wings of Dirt
A2) Last Toast Before Capsizing (Part 1)
B1) Last Toast Before Capsizing (Part 2)
B2) A Sketch of Jack’s Darabi