Here is my final farewell to 2009. Although the year was a fulfilling one in music, it was most certainly a tragic one as well. The passing of Jack Rose and Danielle Baquet-Long was shocking news to discover, and I speak for all of the people who in some way have felt their presence through their music, that they will be missed and never forgotten. I will take this opportunity to remember both Jack and Dani through the one thing I can say for sure they were both passionate about.
Pelt 'Ayahuasca' (VHF)
Jack Rose was perhaps better known for his solo work, where he would often take nothing more than an acoustic guitar to unbelievable places, infusing his songs with an appalachian twang harkening Fahey and Basho, while also incorporating ragtime, folk and drone. I spent many sun-filled days relaxing to the tunes from his 2003 release Raag Manifestos and 2005's Kensington Blues. My old roommate owned Dr. Ragtime and His pals, a beautifully packaged 180g lp from the Tequila Sunrise label. She would put it on and we'd sit and marvel at the artwork, a pink obi strip semi-obscuring a sun-caked pastoral photograph of two lounging hillbillies with stringed instruments. And the vinyl, so thick, a real pleasure to place on the turn table. I loved that record and my roommate cherished it.
As much as I love those solo albums though, its Rose's band pelt that really gets me going. Pelt tread a slightly different path, stripping back most of the guitar twang to its bare notes, loooong bare notes. Usually a three piece, the band utilize a plethora of instrumentation ranging from banjos, dulceolas, chord organs, tibetan bowls, and so on, resulting in something thats almost always a layered drone piece. My favourite Pelt tracks are the ones when Rose brings in his signature looped guitar plucking, turning them into truly dark neo-appalachian works. Ayahuasca has always been a standout for me. All the elements are here, the tracks are long and left to breathe and the drone is laid on thick, and there is a lot Rose's solo guitar work peppered throughout. I owe this album a lot as it got me through some rough times, and I hope others will discover this record at a time in their life when they need it, just as I did. Rose's contributions made a difference in my life, and I am one of many who are saddened to see him pass on.
Celer 'Tropical' (Mystery Sea)
Releasing almost exclusively on their own cdr label in 2006 and '07, the husband and wife duo Celer came a long way in the succeeding two years, with albums on Students of Decay, and/OAR, Infraction and more. Tragically, Danielle Baquet-Long passed away at only 26 years old. Although I never truly embraced the music of Celer as I have with other groups working in similar territory, I cannot deny the imprint they have made on the scene in the last two years. Evidently one of the hardest working and most dedicated musical bodies, Celer always seemed to have a new album in the pipeline, and it's been hard to keep up. I hope Will can summon up enough strength to carry the torch forward and continue to make and release music on his own.
Celer has always reminded me of a darker, more saturated Stars of the Lid, and those saturated tones ring out on Tropical, their 2008 release on Mystery Sea. Celer is all about slow shifting atmospheres, rolling thunder clouds filling the sky and turning everything a blackened grey. The arrangements here are lethargic and filled with space, revealing hazy late-night dark ambient movements. It was albums like these that defined the duo's sound, and it is unfortunate to say the least, that the demise of this powerful musical entity also came with the death of a talented young woman. My condolences to Dani's husband Will, and all her family and friends.