A History of Space #3: Pelt, Ayahuasca (VHF, 2001)

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Pelt's Ayahuasca cover

For this installment in the series I wanted to change gears and talk about a more recent album. I was attempting to not dig too much into the aughts as this was supposed to be a history of psychedelic music, but in certain cases I am picking out albums I think will be part of our immediate future history. Pelt’s Ayahuasca is certainly one that I feel belongs there.

Pelt is also a bit of an oddity in drone music in that they were one of few (any?) drone bands of recent years playing completely acoustic. Not that they invented the genre (we’ll talk about LaMonte Young et. al later on), but they certainly took it to new places, encouraging other aspiring bands to use drone in their compositions. Trying to fuse, as Pierro Scaruffi notes, John Fahey, Ravi Shankar, The Grateful Dead and LaMonte Young is a daunting task, more impressive in the fact that they not only did so, but utterly nailed it. Pelt is so important to me because their combination of drone, instrumental virtuosity, ragas and acid-fried folk resulted in what I consider to be a whole new breed of Americana. No easy feat.

Ayahuasca remains the best artifact of this idea. At this point Pelt had become the de facto band of Jack Rose (RIP), and he directed this album in a course that would reflect the great spiritual tone through song that they had become known for in their live performances. Indeed, naming the album Ayahuasca wasn’t an in your face kind of drug reference in a tongue-in-cheek wise-ass overt manner, but a very serious nod to the spiritual and religious psychotropic aspects of said plant. The hypnotizing and beautifully layered drones combined with light finger picking sets up a zoned in atmosphere to explore inner thoughts. It is music that can be used for meditation, but over the course of the two discs Pelt also grabs your attention through more abrasive tones and distorted patterns. They even mix in some traditional Appalachian numbers, straying a little bit in style, but doing justice and allowing Jack Rose to really show off his incredible talent at the same time. It all culminates in the raga dedicated to John Fahey that is equal parts all of the above mentioned styles, lifted and pushed into various areas of ecstatic joy and humble reverence.

Ayahuasca is by all accounts an important document in the developmental history of drone, though it is also a timeless piece of soulful and amazing worship music.

This release is out of print. Download it here.