Pelt – Bestio Tergum Degero (Skullfuck)

3 out of 5

Label: VHF Records

Produced by: Pelt (?)

An uneven album; some fantastic featured tracks.

Pelt’s early days of explosive improv gave way to middle / latter years of long-form ragga and folk explorations. There’s been a lot of amazing performances across their many releases in that vein, but given their penchant for capturing a lot of this live, and just the sprawling nature of their approach, “albums” can somewhat be a crapshoot in the sense that you’ll get some individually fantastic moments, but maybe something that feels incomplete as a whole. That very much dogs Bestio Tergum Degero, which has two amazing central pieces – both about or nearing twenty minutes – and then some afterthoughts which feel like they make more sense in the live setting in which this was recorded, but otherwise feel almost like filler on CD.

Opener Calais to Dover, a Jack Rose track, gets added ambience from the Pelt crew, abutting its folky core with gorgeous atmosphere. It’s a beautiful track in its original form, and is rightfully transformed here into something slower and different, each version contemplative, but of separate moods. I’m tempted to say this track makes Skullfuck wholly worth it; given that I’ve repeated this song many, many times, it’s perhaps a justified statement.

This is followed by the first part of Bestio Tergum Degero, which brings out the singing bowls and let’s a slow crawl of noise and clatter build over 17 minutes – one of the group’s more sparse experiments. But the patience of the effect and the eventually overwhelming nature of the noise is immersive… save for coughy guy. Sometimes I can ignore coughy guy, but sometimes I really cannot, and this is the threat of the live recording. About halfway through the experience, (presumably) someone in the crowd starts to have a light, but frequent, cough, and it just… really distracts from the style of the song.

And once / if you’re offset by that, it makes it harder to understand what the next two tracks are for: part two of Bestio is a coda, but the first part already essentially has a coda as it’s final couple minutes, so this extension doesn’t make much sense to me, especially since it occupies runtime that could’ve (to me) been better used to flesh out part three, which is an unleashing of percussion, meant as an exclamation point to end the show / disc. It’s awesome, but it really feels like it could’ve been awesomer; while it’s louder volume-wise than the peaks of part 1, it doesn’t match the eventual emotional highs of that track, making it feel more like a cute way of bowing out as opposed to a necessity.