Pelican - _March Into the Sea_
(Hydra Head Records, 2005)
by: James Montague (8.5 out of 10)
Funny name for a band, Pelican. One could be forgiven for thinking it was just typical indie-rock posturing; a banal attempt at irony. Like, hey dudes, let's write a totally thrashing song called "My Love for You Is Lovely" and then follow it with a song called "Kill Fuck Die Die Die" which is actually, like, a really sweet ballad. And people thought rain on a wedding day was ironic!

So why Pelican, then? I cast my mind back to March, when I last visited my parents in South Australia. The seashore along the Great Australian Bight is a popular nesting area for pelicans, and during my stay I frequently found myself staring in awe at these bizarre creatures. They come in off the water, coasting on their enormous wings, then flap clumsily a few times and land precariously on the lampposts that line the piers, before snuggling up for a nap. After a little snooze, they again unholster their giant beaks and stand upright upon their quivering vantage points. The spectators watch with bated breath. Surely this isn't going to work? It's a 747 jet attempting to take off from an aircraft carrier. The great evolutionary joke tips over the edge, flails its giant propellers and somehow barely avoids the ground before finding a more relaxed stroke, then soars away majestically towards the horizon. What a ridiculous, awkward, lumbering, stunning, beautiful creature.

In this context, Pelican is not an off-the-cuff joke name, nor is it ironic. This instrumental four-piece from Illinois delivers some of the most soaring, haunting, uplifting and wonderful music through the medium of thundering, gargantuan, drawling bass and downtuned chords. The music is melodic, but this melody is not achieved through high-end lead guitar or keyboards. The heaviness is never compromised, because the heaviness is part of its beauty. Somehow, something which was never meant to be, is.

Pelican displayed their craft to wondrous effect with their debut LP, _Australasia_, and they continue their evolution with this two-song, 33-minute EP. The title track is an extended version of a piece that will appear on the upcoming full-length, _The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw_. I imagine much of the extra playing time is contained in the more sombre, meandering passages that will inevitably evoke comparisons to the crescendo / decrescendo formula of fellow instrumentalists, Godspeed! You Black Emperor. This comparison is in fact often made, but undeservedly so. Both bands may be fully instrumental and write 10 to 20 minute songs, but whereas the Canadians build agonizingly towards peaks and descend back into troughs, Pelican tends to rumble on relentlessly like its namesake, a graceful colossus.

The EP is rounded off by a remix of the song "Angel Tears" from the _Australasia_ album. With just a few modifications -- ambient, ringing keyboards, a few basic percussive effects and a simple piano melody -- the song's inner spirituality is drawn out and enhanced even further against the doomy bass lines and caustic guitars. A stunning reinterpretation that possibly exceeds the original.

Essential for doom / stoner rock aficionados and highly recommended to the rest of us, Pelican is nature in all its curious glory -- something seemingly unsuited to this world, yet breathtaking. Take a moment to admire its splendour.


(article published 8/6/2005)

12/1/2013 A El Naby 6.5 Pelican - Forever Becoming
5/6/2012 D Lake 6 Pelican - Ataraxia / Taraxis
7/27/2007 J Montague 5 Pelican - City of Echoes
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