Pelt is one of the survivors from that explosive mid 90's underground explosion that resulted in Drunken Fish's glorious Harmony of the Sphere's box, yet Pelt was too radical still to appear on that lavish collection. At first a seeming US counterpart to the NZ free noise scene, Pelt quickly mutated into something altogether different, culminating in their landmark 'Empty Bell Ringing in the Sky' CD. Empty Bell is an awe inspiring work of what I would unfortunately classify as 'drone', when in fact the album defies classification. Closer in spirit to the incredible Gold Blood release by Fushitsusha; cacophony melds into higher order consciousness, or perhaps it is something other than consciousness. Whatever it is, this is new music; no less innovative than the likes of Ligeti or Xenakis.
Having climbed that mountain already, Pelt does not make the mistake of trying to repeat itself. The masterful Ayahuasca, while perhaps not the landmark that Empty Bell was, is nonetheless one of the most satisfying things I've heard by the band. This time 'round, the 'hillbilly theatre of eternal music' have indeed broken out their banjos, and when the band is not exploring uncharted territory, it exploring an equally interesting Appalachian folk music/Pelt amalgamation. If you think that Pelt has gone completely native, a quick listen of The Black Twig Pickers (a Mike Gangloff spin-off project) will tell you that the Pelt songs here are not -quite- true to form (even if they are traditional numbers); though you might have come to the same conclusion given some of the instrumentation.) This bizarre hybrid of folk, drone and noise makes for what may be among one of the most original albums I've heard in years (really, what should you make of a Fahey-esque number with scraping violins and tibetan bowls?)
Elsewhere we hear the Pelt sound we've all come to know, but now with distinctive eastern-tinged harmonies -- something that softens the impact of Pelt's normally mind-altering experience, but next to folk numbers, that is probably a good choice.
At two discs in length, Ayahuasca has a LOT to offer, and the fact that it is able to put this length to good use without repetition says a great deal about what Pelt has to offer. Although at times I'm not sure whether this is more a collection of various Pelt tracks or just one incredibly diverse album, it is nonetheless a very rewarding purchase that easily justifies the slim price tag ($12 from VHF) even if you've never heard Pelt before. Go out and buy!
-- Chris Moon, Blastitude