Small 32

Pelt: Rob's Choice

Pelt "Rob's Choice" VHF Pelt's kaleidoscopically droning performances at Terrastock and Transmission festivals have earned them the moniker "Hillbilly Theatre of Eternal Music," but only one member still resides in Virginia. The group finds equal inspiration in the drone elements of old-time bluegrass and LaMonte Young's seminal '60s experiments -- the trio's members might pick up mandolin or banjo as well as guitars, organs, sitars, Tibetan bowls, or a strange, homemade hurdy-gurdy that grinds out electric moans on guitar strings. "Rob's Choice" follows the band's riveting "Empty Bell Ringing in the Sky" with three versions of that CD's title track -- all improvised, all different, and all epic journeys up a huge magic mountain, roaming through heavy fog, feeling small on big rocks and huffing a rarefied atmosphere. On both, Pelt takes their drones to another level of intensity, offering gigantic washes of roaring, glowing, shimmering and shattering sound. What separates Pelt from Young is the willful sonic escalation from monk chant and Appalachian bowed sitar to Blue Ridge mountain grinding ear-death. Like Young or Goro Yamaguchi's classic shakuhachi LP to which the song title refers, they retain a purity of spiritual essence throughout. If Pelt hasn't tamed these tones, then they've at least learned to get on and ride. They've not become giants; they've become the mountain.

-- Jeff Bagato

The Washington Post Weekend/Friday, Feb. 2, 2001