Pelt is a drone music band that was formed in Virginia in 1993. The late Jack Rose, an American guitarist inspired by John Fahey whom I first listened to while writing on this website, was once a guitarist in Pelt before leaving the group in 2006 to focus on his solo career. According to Wikipedia, the group incorporates different psychedelic and folk elements across the globe to attain their droning sound. This album, Bestio Tergum Degero (2006), also known as Skullfuck, is an album that contains the group’s live performance from a November night in 2005 at New York City’s Knitting Factory. I’m pretty stoked to give this album a listen, so with that said, I’m going to jump on into the music.
“Calais to Dover” starts out with a growing sound of drones from what seem to be a harmonium, which is soon joined by some super interesting acoustic guitar, both of which come together in a manner that almost seems like John Fahey’s The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death (1965), with a hint of psychedelia. Oh wow, there’s a fiddle that gradually comes into the soundscape that seems to bring a sort of raga-inflection to the guitar playing. I’m really digging this song so far. The soundscape seems to transport you through some ancient rainforest wilderness until you find some sort of graveyard outside of a church from the old west. Wow, the track seems to continue wandering in a sort of psychedelic, nearly shamanic manner, as though the guitar and fiddle are subtly guiding you across the River Styx.
Oh wow, the fiddle almost brings a sort of ghostly presence to the track alongside the harmonium, almost as though they’re in constant pursuit of the dynamic, guitar work. Oh wow, the drones from the harmonium seem to be gradually getting brighter and the acoustic guitar seemingly gets tighter, almost as though the river of this music is forming into a series of rapids. Wow, I’m really digging this track. The droning of the harmonium sort of reminds me of the psychedelic folk styles of Espers, while the guitar work brings about the American primitive guitar style of John Fahey, with the fiddle adding in elements of raga to the medley. Holy smokes, the guitar work almost evokes a sort of ancient middle eastern, raga-inflected folk sound as the drones seem to be further incorporated into the guitar.
The track almost has a sort of haunting presence as the song begins to come to a close, and especially as the guitar fades away and all that’s left are the drones joined by a gently moving violin. Oh wow, it sounds like another droning instrument has joined in, and brings a sort of blissful sound to the track as the song comes to a close. Awesome track, and I’m excited to hear more.
“Bestio Tergum Degero pt. 1” begins with some low, distant drones, as though you’re hearing the remnants of a massive gong being struck from inside a building a few minutes ago as you stand outside of said building. Oh wow, the gong sound has a really mysterious, ghostly presence, especially as some other interesting droning tones are adding from what sound to be Tibetan singing bowls. It’s almost as though the previous song ended, and what you’re hearing now is some sort of dark echo that slowly permeates throughout the universe. The sound of the Tibetan singing bowl almost brings in a sort of industrial-esque feel with light clanging of the wood dowel against the lip of the bowl. Oh wow, large waves of gongs are now rolling into the soundscape, as though the band is playing back the crashing of waves along a shoreline at half the speed.
The sound of the track is somehow both cloaked in darkness, yet absolutely tranquil, almost as though you’re hearing a musical version of observing the aftermath of a volcanic eruption a few months after the event – the landscape both destroyed, but the first signs of life coming back are beginning to show. Though the track has somewhat spacey elements, it never seems to necessarily wander into cosmic territory. Oh wow, the gongs have calmed down a bit and it almost sounds like a gentle guitar string is being repeatedly tapped, bringing more tranquility to the soundscape in the process. Oh wow, the gongs calm down even more for a moment near the end of the track. Some other instruments gradually come in near the end, as though they’re feeling out the soundscape and looking for a way to enter. Great track.
“Bestio Tergum Degero pt. 2” starts out with a super sweet droning tone that started at the end of the previous track, and it seems like at least a couple of Tibetan singing bowls begin to harmonize as the track gradually continues. There’s a sort of discordant creaking sound that gradually comes into the soundscape on top of the drones, which almost makes it sound like you’re hearing the creaky old swings of an abandoned playground gently blowing in the wind. Oh wow, I think I heard a distant dog bark for a moment. The drones seem to continually get sweeter as the track continues, bringing even more serenity to the soundscape. Wow, super sweet track.
“Bestio Tergum Degero pt. 3” begins with the clapping of the audience after the musical journey of the previous three songs, which is shortly interrupted by a cacophony of gongs and Tibetan singing bowls, almost like the crack of thunder signaling the end of the calm before the storm. The crashing of the gongs brings the album to a chaotic crescendo as the music comes to a close. Wow, great track, and a great way to end the album.
Holy smokes, I’m glad I checked out this album tonight, and I certainly want to listen to more of Pelt’s discography. The nature of the music felt like it walked a line between darkness and serenity, nearly becoming experimental in the process, all while seemingly keeping in line with the American primitive guitar style popularized by John Fahey, and which Jack Rose was also known for. The entire album also sort of reminded me a bit of Akron/Family throughout with the nearly shamanic style of music at times. If you’re into either droning psychedelic folk and Americana/Appalachian music, or you enjoy the American primitive guitar stylings of John Fahey and/or Jack Rose, then you might want to consider checking out this album. If you do decide to give this album a listen, I sincerely do hope that you enjoy the experience at least as much as I did.