Pelt and Jack Rose

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Brown Cyclopedia , 7.5/10
Burning/Filament/Rockets , 6/10
Max Meadows , 6.5/10
Techeod , 6/10
Empty Bell Ringing In The Sky , 7.5/10
Ayahuasca , 7.5/10
Keyhole , 5/10
Pearls From The River (2003), 6.5/10
Pelt (2005), 6/10
Dauphin Elegies (2008), 6/10
Jack Rose: Red Horse White Mule (2001), 7/10
Jack Rose: Opium Musick (2002), 6/10
Jack Rose: Raag Manifestos (2004), 6.5/10
Jack Rose: Kensington Blues (2005), 5/10
Jack Rose: Jack Rose (2006), 5/10
Jack Rose: Dr Ragtime & Pals (2008) , 4.5/10
Jack Rose: Black Twig Pickers (2009), 4/10
Jack Rose: Black Dirt Sessions (2009), 4/10
Jack Rose: Luck In The Valley (2010), 4/10
Pelt: Effigy (2012), 6/10

Pelt were formed by guitarists Mike Gangloff and Skip James Connell in 1993 in Richmond (Virginia). With Pat Best and Jack Rose (Uglyhead's rhythm section), the quartet recorded the single Hugeness/ Frequency=Distribution (Radioactive Rat, 1994) and the limited-edition double album Brown Cyclopedia (Radioactive Rat, 1995 - VHF, 1997). The album is a cross between Royal Trux's Twin Infinitive and Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation, except with much more studio gimmickry. After the introduction of Anchored, inspired by Velvet Underground's mind-warping raga, the atmosphere gets wildly psychedelic with the 10-minute aberration Green Flower, a free-form piece that runs the gamut from shamanic chant to wall of distortion. Poor recording and amateurish vocals detract from a concept More cacophonous dadaism of the John Cage/Edgar Varese school (Subversion Of A Cat's Eye, 4th In Paradise) and experimental pieces a` la Ummagumma-era Pink Floyd (Phantom Tick) the album dives into the 10-minute middle-eastern mass Absolution, torn apart by delirious tape manipulation and orgies of guitar dissonance. Almighty continues the religious theme with another shamanic invocation accompanied by loud strumming. The obscure clouds of the 9-minute Who Is The Third crown this monumental tribute to the altered states of the mind.
Unlike other pursuers of the lysergic gospel, Pelt rarely sacrifice chaos for the sake of melody (Total Denigration is the only "acid ballad"). They stick to noise as the medium and as the end. Each track eventually loses its identity and leaves only sonic debris behind. The album is played with virtually no percussions: guitars are more than enough to raise this kind of hell.

Burning/Filament/Rockets (Econogold, 1996) expanded the format to free-form instrumentals that recall Bitch Magnet and Slint without the rhythmic complexity. Ein Platz An Der Sonne sounds like an explicit homage to Einsturzende Neubaten.

The quartet's ambitions led to the seven lengthy improvisations/meditations of Max Meadows (VHF, 1997). Bordering on raga-rock's suites (Samsara), acid-rock's jams (Sunken), industrial noise (Abcdelancey), hypnotic tribal folk (Hippy War Machine), and droning new age music (Outside Listening), Pelt's instrumentals merged mind-bending psychedelic distortions and mind-opening world instrumentation; Faust and Bardo Pond, Red Krayola and Roy Montgomery, Third Ear Band and Dead C, but also Cecil Taylor and Tony Conrad.

Snake to Snake (Klang Industries) was recorded live in 1995 and 1996.

Excesses of minimalism and free-jazz feed the three epic tracks of Techeod (VHF, 1998). The 14-minute New Delhi Blues opens with a rhythm-less invocation by keyboards tuned like horns. After five minutes, tablas impose order on the chaotic wailing of the instruments. At nine minutes, the tablas stop and music slowly dissolves. The 27-minute juggernaut Big Walker Mountain starts from this shapeless vortex of unformed sounds and unfolds a massive attack of drones. When they fade out, the primal chaos is restored. Then, again, the cacophony increases, and then, again, it collapses. The dissonance gets louder and harsher, but the piece ends on a surprisingly gentle note. The 17-minute Mu Mesons is the most dissonant and droning of the three, a gigantic cosmic radiation that builds up to a terrifying climax. All in all, the longer piece is the disappointing one. The other two are intriguing experiments in bridging psychedelic music, jazz music and electronic music. Multi-instrumentalist Rose has become the center of gravity and Mike Gangloff's alter ego (Amy Shea on fiddle).

Jack Rose also recorded Via St Louis (Drunken Fish, 1998) with Charalambides' Jason Bill.

Empty Bell Ringing In The Sky (VHF, 1999) could be the most overly psychedelic of their works, or at least the most mind-bending and disjointed. The 10-minute Ghosts Are Never Forgiven is an abstract atonal chamber music piece. The 18-minute Ghost Galaxies is even better in the realm of free-form soundpainting: it is just a chamber concerto for guitar tones and percussion that evokes both the Western avantgarde of the 20th century and the rituals of East Asia. The title track's sprawling 50-minute performance begins in a more organic mode but soon becomes a chaotic accumulation of cryptic tones despite an underlying bass ticking that can be viewed as a lugubrious melody. The sound is dense, droning, vibrating and relentless. Incantations emerge and drown. The guitar noise becomes more unnerving, bordering on industrial clangor, on a trumpeting elephant, on droning religious music, on galactic radio signals. This is at the same time Pelt's equivalent to Grateful Dead's Dead Star, a bold exploration of a psychic jungle, and Pelt's equivalent to Throbbing Gristle's Music from the Death Factory. The last 17 minutes constitute a separate coda that begins with an intense droning raga alap and then builds around it enough noisy detours to create a tragic atmosphere. The pattern seems to disintegrate into deadly shards that then return like boomerangs to increase the level of dissonance.

One of the band members later reworked the pieces for a better-produced version, Rob's Choice (VHF).

After this album Pelt became de facto Jack Rose's personal project. On their two-disc tour de force Ayahuasca (VHF, 2001), dedicated to the late John Fahey, Pelt is pushing the envelope of their post-psychedelic and post-ambient technique. The mission of bridging John Fahey, Grateful Dead, Ravi Shankar and LaMonte Young is ambitious but also rewarding. The 16-minute raga that opens the album, True Vine, is a slow-motion parade of Tibetan drones, industrial dissonance, cavernous ringing performed on sawing bowed guitar and exotic instruments. Free-form phrases float chased by melodic fragments and piercing drones, emancipated from tempos and structure. The general tone is more hallucinated than ecstatic.
Harsher droning sounds, spread over a vast spectrum of frequencies, demolish any pretense of meditation/contemplation along the 26-minute musical calvary of Deer Head Apparition. The wall of sound vibrates like a volcano that is about to erupt and roars menacing like a Gordon Mumma piece. We are almost in Dead C territory. Bear Head Apparition is gentler and sparser, but also quite radical cacophony.
The Dream Of Leaping Sharks (21 minutes) is the most oneiric piece, steeped in deep tones, high-pitched sitar-like wails, and distorted snippets of melodies.
The core of the album, the tour de force withing the tour de force, is the three-part A Raga Called John. The 12-minute long first part overlaps dreamy picking a` la John Fahey over a steady crackling guitar noise. The rhythm accelerates into a sort of square dance, but then dies out and what remains is a shower of galactic drones. The 25-minute second part is an effervescent cacophony that creates a thick texture of Buddhist and raga themes. It is probably the most intense and radical piece on the album. The brief third part returns to the quiet, atmospheric picking of the first part, albeit wrapped in sitar-like drones.
Surprisingly, the album also includes two traditional Appalachian songs (The Cuckoo and Deep Sunny South) that are given a noble treatment without sacrificing too much of the original. They display the amazing finger-picking of Jack Rose, a guitar virtuoso for the new century.

Keyhole (Eclipse, 2001) contains improvisations by Pelt, Keenan Lawler and Eric Clark performed in an empty grain silo.

Pearls From The River (VHF, 2003), Pelt's first truly "studio" recording (not a single note was recorded live), contains three long instrumental acoustic tracks. The droning minimalism of Up the North Fork for plucked banjo and atonal cello (that sets the mood of intense concentration) suddenly explodes in a frenzied gypsy dance. The 20-minute Pearls From the River begins like an ecstatic raga but soon becomes a pretext for a free-form jamming. The standout is he 15-minute Road to Catawba, more similar to John Fahey's lengthy guitar poems than to Rose's favorite ragas; brooding at the beginning, then tense and lively, and finally celestial and wise at the end. None of them ever sets off for the skies. This is very earthly, humane and intimate music. The trio is working inwards, not outwards. Both the instrumentation and the careful recording attest to a new maturity. Case in point, Rose's virtuoso playing is the cohesive (rather than explosive) element that lends the music its stately grace. But only one of these ambitious pieces truly captures the heart.

Jack Rose's acoustic epics on Red Horse White Mule (Eclipse, 2001) contributed to the revival of folk guitar solo. The 16-minute Red Horse evokes a more tranquil and serene John Fahey immersed in a trance of delicate colors and feathery thoughts. The 12-minute White Mule is slightly more nervous and more ominous, the adult counterpart to the childish ecstasy of Red Horse. Opium Musick (Eclipse, 2002) opens with Yaman Blues, a slow-paced, brooding and agonizing duet of guitar and sitar. Mountaintop Lament was equally shy and meditative, almost the exact opposite of the exuberant emotional cascades of Red Horse White Mule. Raag Manifestos (VHF, 2004) takes off with the breath-taking Black Pearls from The River, one of his most feverish ragas, and adds Ian Nagoski's electronic soundscape to his volcanic eruptions in Hart Crane's Old Boyfriends. Calm is restored in time for Crossing The Great Waters.

Pelt returned with another session of droning post-industrial ragas, Pelt (VHF, 2005), containing four lengthy massive cacophonous droning hyper-psychedelic ragas (notably the second one, half an hour long).

It sounded like Jack Rose had kept the best (dark ambient droning) music for the Pelt release, as his solo Kensington Blues (VHF, 2005) was disappointing by his standards, a hodgepodge of different styles (including a Fahey cover, and two tracks that had already appeared on other albums).

Pelt's Heraldic Beasts (Eclipse, 2006) was an anthology.

The centerpiece of the live Skullfuck/ Bestio Tergum Degero (VHF, 2006) was the three-part Bestio Tergum Degero.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Gianluca Mantovan)

I Pelt si formarono per iniziativa dei chitarristi Mike Gangloff e Skip James Connell nel 1993 a Richmond (Virginia). Con Pat Best e Jack Rose (sezione ritmica di Uglyhead), il quartetto registro' il singolo Hugeness/ Frequency=Distribution (Radioactive Rat, 1994) e il doppio album a tiratura limitata Brown Cyclopedia (Radioactive Rat, 1995 - VHF, 1997). L'album fonde Twin Infinitives dei Royal Trux e Daydream Nation dei Sonic Youth con maggiori trovate di studio. Dopo l'introduttiva Anchored, ispirata dai raga alla Velvet Underground destinati a deformare le menti, l'atmosfera si fa selvaggiamente psichedelica con gli aberranti 10 minuti di Green Flower, una piece free-form che percorre la scala musicale dal canto sciamanico al muro della distorsione. La scadente registrazione e il dilettantismo vocale declassano il concept. Tra la cacofonia dadaista alla John Cage/Edgar Varese (Subversion Of A Cat's Eye, 4th In Paradise) e lo sperimentalismo stile Ummagumma dei Pink Floyd (Phantom Tick) l'album si tuffa nei 10 minuti di messa mediorientale di Absolution, con deliranti manipolazioni e orgie di chitarre dissonanti. Almighty continua il tema religioso con una nuova invocazione sciamanica accompagnata da forte strimpellio. Le oscure nuvole dei 9 minuti di Who Is The Third coronano questo monumentale tributo all'alterazione mentale. A differenza di altri fautori del gospel lisergico i Pelt raramente sacrificano il caos per la melodia (Total Denigration e' la sola "ballata acida"). Il rumore e' per loro mezzo e fine. Ogni pezzo perde la propria identita' e non rimangono che macerie sonore. L'album e' suonato praticamente senza percussioni: le chitarre sono piu' che sufficienti a scatenare l'inferno.

Burning/Filament/Rockets (Econogold, 1996) allarga il formato agli strumentali free-form che ricordano Bitch Magnet e Slint senza la complessita' ritmica. Ein Platz An Der Sonne ha il sapore di un esplicito tributo agli Einsturzende Neubaten. Le ambizioni del quartetto condussero alle sette lunghe improvvisazioni/meditazioni di Max Meadows (VHF, 1997). Al confine fra le suite raga-rock (Samsara), le jam acid-rock (Sunken), il noise industriale (Abcdelancey), il folk tribale ipnotico (Hippy War Machine) e la musica new age (Outside Listening), gli strumentali dei Pelt fondono distorsioni psichedeliche che avvolgono la mente e strumentazione world che apre la mente; Faust e Bardo Pond, Red Krayola e Roy Montgomery, Third Ear Band e Dead C ma pure Cecil Taylor e Tony Conrad. Snake to Snake (Klang Industries) fu registrato dal vivo nel 1995 e 1996.

Gli eccessi di minimalismo e free jazz alimentano le tre epiche tracce di Techeod (VHF, 1998), in particolare New Delhi Blues e Mu Mesons. Jack Rose registro' pure Via St Louis (Drunken Fish, 1998) con Jason Bill Charalambides. Empty Bell Ringing In The Sky (VHF, 1999) e' il loro lavoro piu' psichedelico, debitore in larga misura ai piu' indulgenti Amon Duul e Grateful Dead. If Ghosts Are Never Forgiven e Ghost Galaxies sono tentativi molto banali di rinascita del cosmic/raga-rock, la scomposta performance della title track e' la loro Dead Star.

Sul loro tour de force Ayahuasca (VHF, 2001), album doppio dedicato all'ultimo John Fahey, i Pelt spingono sull'acceleratore della loro tecnica post-psichedelica e post-ambient. La missione di unire John Fahey, Grateful Dead, Ravi Shankar e LaMonte Young e' sia ambiziosa che gratificante. Il raga di 16 minuti in apertura, True Vine, e' una parata al rallentatore di ronzii tibetani, dissonanze industriali, suoni cavernosi da archetti di chitarra e strumenti esotici. Strutture free-form galleggiano inseguite da frammenti melodici e ronzii perforanti, emancipati da tempo e struttura. Il tono generale e' piu' allucinato che estatico. Rumori di fondo piu' duri, disseminati su di un vasto spettro di frequenze, demoliscono ogni pretesa di meditazione/contemplazione lungo il calvario musicale lungo 26 minuti di Deer Head Apparition. Il muro del suono vibra come un vulcano in procinto di eruttare e ruggisce in modo altrettanto minaccioso di una piece di Gordon Mumma. Siamo quasi in territorio di Dead C. Bear Head Apparition e' piu' calma e rada, ma anche piu' radicale nella sua cacofonia. The Dream Of Leaping Sharks (21 minuti) e' il pezzo piu' onirico, con toni piu' profondi, alti lamenti similsitar, e distorti frammenti melodici. Il cuore dell'album, il tour de force nel tour de force, e' il pezzo in tre parti A Raga Called John. I dodici minuti della prima parte sovrappongono picking sognanti alla John Fahey a un costante crepitio di chitarra. Il ritmo prima accelera fino ad una specie di square dance, poi si smorza e cio' che resta e' una doccia di ronzii galattici. I venticinque minuti della seconda parte sono una cacofonia effervescente che produce temi Buddisti e raga strettamente intrecciati. E' forse la piece piu' radicale ed intensa dell'album. La breve terza parte ripropone il picking calmo e atmosferico della prima, benche' avvolto in ronzii similsitar. L'album include pure a sorpresa due tradizionali canzoni Appalachiane (The Cuckoo e Deep Sunny South) che vengono nobilmente riviste senza sacrificare oltre misura l'originale. In questi pezzi si trova lo stupefacente finger-picking di Jack Rose, un virtuoso della chitarra nel nuovo secolo. Keyhole (Eclipse, 2001) contiene improvvisazioni dei Pelt, Keenan Lawler e Eric Clark in un silos di grano vuoto.

Pearls From The River (VHF, 2003) e' il primo vero album in studio dei Pelt (nessuna nota fu registrata dal vivo), contenente tre lunghi strumentali acustici. Gli otto minuti di ronzio minimalista in Up the North Fork (per banjo, baritono banjo and violoncello) costituiscono l'ouverture, che aiuta l'intensa concentrazione dell'ascoltatore. I venti minuti di raga estatico in Pearls From the River sono bilanciati dai quindici minuti di raga meditabondo in Road to Catawba. Tuttavia nessuno dei due svetta. La musica è terrena, umana ed intimistica. Il trio lavora all'interno e non all'esterno. Sia la strumentazione che l'attenta registrazione provano maggiore maturita'. In questo caso, i virtuosismi di Rose sono elemento piu' coesivo che esplosivo, in grado di conferire grazia espressiva alla musica. Jack Rose fece gli epici ed acustici Red Horse White Mule (Eclipse, 2001), con i sedici minuti di Red Horse, e Opium Musick (Eclipse, 2002). Soprattutto il primo evoca i country-raga di John Fahey. Raag Manifestos (VHF, 2004) decolla con il pezzo mozzafiato Black Pearls from The River, uno dei suoi raga piu' infuocati, mentre in Hart Crane's Old Boyfriends l'elettronica di Ian Nagoski accompagna le abituali eruzioni vulcaniche. La calma torna giusto in tempo per Crossing The Great Waters. I Pelt tornarono con una nuova serie di sommessi raga post-industriali in Pelt (VHF, 2005). Apparve chiaro che Jack Rose aveva conservato la sua migliore musica (ronzio dark ambient) per le uscite dei Pelt, dal momento che il suo album solista Kensington Blues (VHF, 2005) fu piu' sottotono del solito, un miscuglio di stili differenti (inclusa una cover di Fahey, e due pezzi già comparsi in precedenti album). Heraldic Beasts (Eclipse, 2006) contenne quattro raga lunghi, massicci, cacofonici, rumorosi e iper-psichedelici. Il pezzo centrale del live Skullfuck/ Bestio Tergum Degero (VHF, 2006) fu Bestio Tergum Degero, suddivisa in tre parti.

Jack Rose's next solo, Jack Rose (Archive, 2006) sounded, yet again, as a mere corollary to Pelt. Here the guitarists toyed with the slide guitar as if he were rehearsing for a new Pelt album. Only the 13-minute Spirits In The House sounds like a truly accomplished piece. The rest sounds like what it is: meditations by a master of music while he is preparing to create some music.

Jack Rose's Dr Ragtime & Pals (Tequila Sunrise, 2008) was equally uneventful, looking like a collection of brief leftovers that never materialized in more ambitious compositions. I Do Play Rock and Roll (Three Lobed, 2008) document live performances, including a 13-minute Calais To Dover and a 22-minute Sundogs.

Meanwhile, Pelt's Dauphin Elegies (VHF, 2008) was another spectacular incursion into drone-based psychedelic raga music, notably with the 31-minute Cast Out To Deep Waters.

Jack Rose & the Black Twig Pickers (VHF, 2009) documents a collaboration with the Black Twig Pickers (guitar, banjo, fiddle, percussion, harmonica, vocals). Black Dirt Sessions (Three Lobed, 2009) contains yet another version of Cross The North Fork. Luck In The Valley (Thrill Jockey, 2010) completed the (mediocre) trilogy of Dr Ragtime and His Pals and Jack Rose & the Black Twig Pickers.

Jack Rose died in december 2009 of a heart attack at the age of 38.

Pelt returned with the single A Stone For Angus Maclise (2010) and the album Effigy (2012), recorded live in studio, another set of lush chromatic ragas like Of Jack's Darbari.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Gianluca Mantovan)

L'album solo successivo, Jack Rose (Archive, 2006) parve ancora una volta un mero corollario Pelt. Qui i chitarristi giocavano con la chitarra slide come durante le prove per un nuovo album dei Pelt. Solo i 13 minuti di Spirits In The House sono un pezzo veramente compiuto. Il resto suona per ci che : meditazioni di un maestro di musica mentre si sta preparando a creare qualche musica. Dr Ragtime & Pals di Jack Rose (Tequila Sunrise, 2008) fu altrettanto tranquillo, una raccolta di brevi scarti incapaci di evolversi in composizioni pi ambiziose. I Do Play Rock and Roll (Three Lobed, 2008) documenta performance dal vivo. Nel frattempo, a nome Pelt, Dauphin Elegie (VHF, 2008) una nuova spettacolare incursione in musica raga psichedelica drone-based, in particolare con i 31 minuti di Cast Out To Deep Waters. Jack Rose & the Black Twig Pickers (VHF, 2009) documenta una collaborazione con i Black Twig Pickers (chitarra, banjo, violino, percussioni, armonica, voce). Black Dirt Sessionso (Three Lobed, 2009) contiene l'ennesima versione di Cross The North Fork. Luck In The Valley (Thrill Jockey, 2010) completa la (mediocre) trilogia di Dr Ragtime and His Pals e Jack Rose & Black Twig Pickers. Jack Rose morto nel dicembre 2009 per un attacco di cuore a 38 anni.

I Pelt tornarono con il singolo A Stone for Angus Maclise (2010) e con l'album Effigy (2012), registrato dal vivo in studio.

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