Pelt Part Wild Gate - Hung On Sunday [MIE Music - 2012]
Pelt Part Wild Gate is a collaborative group comprised of members of Pelt, Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides, and Gate. Ordinarily creators of noise music, they have decided for the purpose of this LP release, titled "Hung on Sunday", to use nothing but Gamelan instrumentation.
The group's playing sounds to me aimless and rhythmically inaccurate, an attempted homage that comes off as a vague sketch, created by people who respect but do not truly understand gamelan (not to say that I do). The sounds of the instruments are beautiful, yes, but in the course of such an improvisation, the elegant melodic order that gives gamelan its identity never appears.
They attempt impromptu lullaby-esque melodies in unison, but their timing is loose, and the figures distintegrate, lacking symmetry. They toy with the mystifying Gamelan scales and tonalities by way of playing instruments tuned to these scales, but struggle to assemble any kind of melodic coherency. The music becomes cloud-like in form, shifting indecisively between a couple different chordal bass underpinnings.
The sluggishness is relaxing, in a sense, and at times it really feels like a kind of ancient dronespace has been accessed; elsewhere it seems to indicate a lack of focus. A meditative atmosphere is often lost to noodling, and many sections of the recording have the exploratory, hit and miss feeling of a first experience with a new instrument.
As I've said in reviews of other sloppy jam recordings: you'd benefit more from engaging in a prolonged improv session on an unfamiliar instrument yourself, and revelling in the beauty of its tone in that context, than listening to a fellow amateur's attempt. Improvising as such can be a spiritual and vital experience, so I can see why these groups create such records, but it's something where the worth lies more in the doing than the listening back, in many cases.
Thankfully, there are attempts at 'movements', moments in which the group will intentionally shift to playing only softer tones in a very deep register, so that the transients come soft and thick and one cannot quite discern the precise moment when the musicians strike the massive gongs, shaking as they are with sustained vibratory resonance. These bass registers are the most pleasing sound on the album, and the one part where the music is successfully carried by texture alone.
Mostly, this recording just whets my appetite for authentic Gamelan music, something all too scarce. The fact that this recording has been classified as 'Gamelan' and may appear in lieu of actual Gamelan when someone is searching for said music, is irritating to me. The freeform, improvisatory style of this album would, I think, be something I might appreciate in the context of noise music, and so the other works of the 3 groups involved might be potentially be of interest to me, however I'm only able to enjoy fractions of "Hung on Sunday", lacking as it is in substance and momentumJosh Landry