The product of two days of recording in the Philadelphia home of Jack Rose, Pelt's ninth release (CD-Rs not included) is, on first encounter, an austere affair. Both the album and its four compositions are untitled. The cover is made up of fuzzy, black-and-white close-ups of various instruments. The information inside is minimal, providing no specifics regarding who played what. All of this restraint, however, seems designed to let the music contained speak for itself. Each piece here unfolds in an organic fashion: the musicians letting the sound around them dictate what they play rather than forcing the music's development. The result is a series of immense, drone-based structures, performed entirely on acoustic instruments. The contributions of Rose, Patrick Best, Mike Gangloff, and newly inaugurated Mikel Dimmick seem, at first glance, to blur together into a single sound mass. Deeper listening, however, reveals greater detail. On Untitled, it's as if previous Pelt creations have been placed under a microscope, revealing the music's grain. The high recording quality adds to this sensation, the sound almost physically present. The album opener immerses the listener in a murky sea, the music bobbing back and forth against low pulses, and clanks for its duration. Track three, made up of higher-pitched, shimmering textures, constantly changes its shape as the sound of various stringed instruments rise to, then sink below, the hazy surface. It's the second song, however, that feels like the true centerpiece. Here, the details of the group's palette are brought into focus. The sounds of individual voices (percussion strokes, string scrapes, Rose's fingerpicking) reveal the subtleties behind shifts through a series of disparate musical environments, from swelling turbulence, to reflective calm, to eerie desolation. Capped off by a brief, dissonant string piece, Untitled offers an hour of rich, expansive, carefully developed sound.
-- Nathan Bush