Small 40

Pelt: Skullfuck/Bestio Tergum Degero

First off: a few words about the highly influential VHF Records. For over 10 years now owner Bill Kellum (who also played with Kranky prog-droners Doldrums) has served as a dependable bridge between the psychedelic underground and the avid sound art consumer.

Certainly one of the most influential and dependable bands on the roster - it gave us Jack Rose for Chrisssakes! - is Pelt, the improvised brainchild of Patrick Best, Rose, Mike Gangloff and Mikel Dimmick. The story of how Pelt went from a primitive anti rock unit to one of the most fluid cosmic noise raga bands on the planet probably deserves a book, but in the meantime Skullfuck / Bestio Tergum Degero, a recording of a recent live set captured in NYC at the Knitting Factory, not only shows how far these lads have come compositionally, but also just how much their musicianship has improved, from Rose's fluid open-tuned fingerpicking to the other players' command of the deep drone (comprised of harmonium, srutis, fiddle, singing bowls, gongs, portacello and flute).

It can all be glimpsed magnificently on their epic, mind-blowing rendition of Rose's "Calais to Dover." Perhaps even more fascinating are the brooding gongs and percussive drones of the three part title track, which grows from a cold whisper to a cloud-breaking sunburst before it's through.

-- Lee Jackson, Deep Water Acres/Bones from the Garden