The members of Pelt have long been heavies in the world of ego-flaying drone — notable both for their dedication to acoustic instrumentation and vast knowledge of traditional free expression from around the globe. They also, of course, retain a bittersweet fame for being the band of guitarist Jack Rose, whose death in 2009 continues to reverberate throughout the musical underground.
Effigy is not Pelt’s first album sans Rose — the scraggly-haired performer left the band in 2006 to focus on his solo career. It is, however, the group’s first outing since he passed, and his spirit hangs heavily over these seven tracks. Yet, Effigy is no mere tribute to a fallen friend. The way Pelt pay homage (if, indeed, that is what they are doing here) is by debuting their strongest collection of recordings in ages. The sounds of Effigy are presented with a depth and wide-angle scope which makes for a moving return by these lovers of the transcendence of sound.
Escaping the dark hollows of Appalachia, the band recorded Effigy in and around Madison, Wisconsin, influenced by numerous animal-shaped mounds which dot the region’s landscape. Yet, while some of the album was taped in an old yoga studio, the sounds held within are galaxies away from new age drift. “Of Jack’s Darbari” crashes from the gates in a hail of string squeal, hand percussion and pummeled piano keys, with the quartet — Mike Gangloff, Patrick Best, Mikel Dimmick and Nathaniel Bowles — ferociously taxing their instruments. Over the course of seven minutes the tune feathers towards earth, slowing and stretching into a meditative sigh far removed from the sternum punch of its initial moments.
“Spikes & Ties” and “From The Lakebed” are two of the most beautiful pieces the band has recorded. The former evokes the lonesome hum of train rails in its horizon-spanning, shivering tones. The later provides a 13-minute orchestra of oft-forgotten instruments, with the organic buzz of mouth harp sounding like heavenly static amongst curls of gongs and singing bowls.
Centerpiece “Ashes Of A Photograph” can be seen as “Pelt 101” — a nearly 23-minute journey of scraping strings that weave and sigh, revealing glimpses of melody and wordless vocal incantations, at once soothing and frenzied. It’s a cornerstone track by a reinvigorated band eagerly pushing at the edges of both folk tradition and ecstatic composition.
-- Ethan Covey, Dusted