There’s an old cliché in football: ‘[insert overrated player] is a confidence player’. In some respects this can also apply to music, Pelican are a band who at times seem to need to feel the love. When they’re on their game, they are, without a doubt one of the best instrumental bands around, more recently though, they haven’t quite been on their game. ‘City of Echoes’ had its moments, but tended to sound a little confused. ‘What We All Come to Need’ ventured more into the realms of post-rock, as opposed to the ‘instru-metal’ for which they are famous. With all due respect to Pelican, the problem with their post-rock sound is that there are plenty of bands who do it better. So I come to their new EP ‘Ataraxia/Taraxis’ with somewhat conflicted feelings: trepidation in case of disappointment, yet excitement at the prospect of a rejuvenated band.
Complicated by location and recording difficulties (this EP is actually the product of four different studios) you could be forgiven for thinking that this would be reflected within the work – it could sound disjointed and lacking in cohesion. It doesn’t. ‘Ataraxia’ is a spectacular, yet surprising, opener – tending to stay away from the typical Pelican crunch (more of that later), and instead focus on an enchanting acoustic melody coupled with the constant background drone of an aeroplane. This paves the way for the aforementioned ‘Pelican crunch’ which is plentiful on the next track ‘Lathe Biosas’. I’m not sure how they do it, but when Pelican are riffing, you always know its Pelican, and in a period of post-metal over-saturation that sense of identity and familiarity is important. Whilst other bands fall by the wayside, there’s always something a little bit more exciting about a release by one of the genre’s big hitters. ISIS were the same, as are Explosions In The Sky and Mogwai on the post-rock side of things. ‘Lathe Biosas’ is not the stand-out track on this EP, neither is the next track ‘Parasite Colony’ which, whilst obviously Pelican, actually sounds closer to ISIS than they ever have before. Yet unlike previous Pelican work, there is something of an assuredness about these two tracks. They are now the masters of their own sound, Pelican, it must be said, are the kings of instru-metal. No other band can create atmosphere like this. ‘Taraxis’ has more in common with the album opener than the two middle tracks – it favours the acoustic/keyboard combination and, oddly, some bells, right in the middle of the track, at the moment the song enters Sigur Ros levels of epicness. This is one of the most perfectly constructed post-metal songs of recent history – finalised with a suitably distorted and crunchy ending. It is a perfect combination of the first three tracks, a flawless mix of experimentation, heaviness and acoustic melody.
Literally the first thing I noticed about ‘Ataraxia/Taxaris’ was the track lengths. Taraxis, at 5:13 is the only track to break the five minute barrier. Could this perhaps be the direction Pelican are headed? Punchy, heavy post-metal without the clichéd meandering. Pelican pack 10 minute epic into neat four minute packages, it’s this stripped down format that I find most appealing about this EP. It certainly isn’t perfect, and gets lost ever so slightly in the middle. Yet, as a full piece of work it is very promising. They have found the perfect balance of balls-out heaviness and acoustic/keyboard driven post-rock. Pelican are a band who might just be right back at the top of their game. This is a good thing, not just for me, or even Pelican, but for the music world as a whole. This genre needs Pelican. Feel the love, guys.
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