Pelt “Reticence/Resistance”

Find me in the right mood on a Friday evening and I could probably make a solid case that Pelt is the greatest American band of the last 25 years. Recorded over two nights at Café Oto in London back in February 2017, Reticence/Resistance is buoying the case. Mike Gangloff and Patrick Best have their own musical language. They’re joined by Nathan Bowles and Mikel Dimmick on Reticence/Resistance (as they have many been many times before), but Gangloff and Best have been at the core of Pelt’s earthen sound from the beginning (along with Jack Rose, obviously). It’s such a transcendent experience to be welcomed into their world where the dirt sings in harmony and the stars in the night sky holler back.

“Diglossia” takes up the entirety of Side A, opening with a cascading framework of Best’s quickfire hammering piano runs, Gangloff’s searing fiddle, and the enveloping warmth of Dimmick’s harmonium. There’s an ecstatic tension that’s gone well past the point of breaking as all the frayed ends dance in various directions. With Gangloff pushing inward, finding a focus point, and bowing it into oblivion, Best begins exploring adventitious scales. There’s a sense that they’re building toward something grand and alluring, but the music is so euphoric and jubilant that the destination becomes a moot point. 

Waves crash in, Bowles saturates the space with metallic percussive washes and Gangloff weaves dizzying melodies in an overwhelming feeling of ritualistic fervor. Eventually, it all becomes too much and the sun moves behind the clouds welcoming a composed calmness in on the wind. I love the way Best’s piano is at the front of the mix, loud and cathartic, filling every inch of space. The last few minutes of “Diglossia” are one long exhale, the harmonium whispering until the end.

As much as I love “Diglossia,” when I first saw the tracklist for Reticence/Resistance, the opening piece on Side B jumped out. “Sundogs” is one of Jack Rose’s all-time great pieces (maybe the all-time great, I don’t know). Gangloff described it best as, “a gorgeous, shimmering monster” and mentioned this idea Jack had of a Pelt CD that was everyone doing their won ‘Sundog’ variations. It never happened, but this mesmerizing tribute scratches that itch. 

Bells and gongs shine a light in the darkness, coming closer and closer until the resonance hands off to Gangloff’s mournful fiddling. Coalescing into a vibrant ball of sonorous light, “The Door in the Hill” is a gateway to a higher plane. Best stabs at the piano while Bowles’ banjo barks out joyous convulsions, everyone ascending together like ghosts finally set free. Reticence/Resistance is contemplative and purifying as it rolls across the golden landscape, pulling us all up by the roots so we can fly too. I’m telling you, Pelt is the best American band around.

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