Pelican - _Ataraxia / Taraxis_
(Southern Lord, 2012)
by: Dan Lake (6 out of 10)
[Dear diehard Pelican fan: I felt that my ambivalence for this EP required some background, but if you don't care, feel free to jump straight to the fourth paragraph for a more succinct shrug of my journalistic shoulders.]

In the summer of 2003, I took a trip with a friend to Chicago, where we ended up experiencing some seriously avant-garde Neo-Futurist theater, munching some seriously good pizza, and grooving some serious grooves at a live John Scofield show. (I've never had a more serious vacation. Seriously.)

Rather than wander aimlessly for entertainment, we picked up a copy of the City Paper and browsed omnivorously. One article that caught my attention described a performance by instrumental heavies Pelican (yet unknown to me at the time); the chords were so loud and dense, says the author, that a mere turn of the head would transform your experience of the music. For months after that barest hint of an introduction, I tracked the imminent Hydrahead release of the band's debut full-length (_Australasia_), and when I finally snagged it from a local music store, I was entranced. For the first track. Then my attention began drifting. A bit of the gild was off, and my high expectations were never quite fulfilled.

Later I found a copy of their first EP, which indeed contained all the awesome I sought. And then there was the _March Into the Sea_ teaser single, which got my blood rushing again with its 20-minute multipart excursion and remix input from the 'flesh lord himself, Justin Broadrick. I was sure the next Pelican record would finally be the perfect storm! Instead, it was _The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw_. Which was nice, I guess, but at some point my patience just gave out and I lost consciousness. (That's right, post-metal pole-pumpers, I said it; turns out I also needed a caffeine drip to stay awake for _Fire_'s blue twin, _Panopticon_ by Isis, which I'm sure makes me the whiny musical n00b I always suspected I was.)

Fast forward through mildly interesting live shows and a few more releases I paid only a modicum of attention, and here we arrive at Pelican's latest, a four-song EP called _Ataraxia / Taraxis_. Lead-off track "Ataraxia" drones in with slowly building electronic noise, a pleasantly picked acoustic guitar melody, and patient keyboard accompaniment. "Lathe Biosas" slams a rumbling guitar riff down on its sibling's sweet subtleties. Multiple themes emerge from the band's signature sludge-lite. (While sludge-lite should be meaningless, it turns out to nail the sound that Pelican have been polishing for the past decade.) Melodies mingle with beefy tones and brusque chug-downs, and all of the transitions are smooth and satisfying. "Parasite Colony" rests its relaxed progressions on a meaty bass line, and "Taraxis" brings back the acoustic guitar for a bed of pretty strumming beneath wobbly electric musings that grow teeth by the end of the track.

_A/T_ falls in line with _City of Echo_'s short-song philosophy, and none of its eighteen minutes are wasted. Or exciting. If you're content to tread the safe path Pelican has paved for the past several years, then this snack is sure to satisfy. Thrill seekers, seek elsewhere.


(article published 6/5/2012)

12/1/2013 A El Naby 6.5 Pelican - Forever Becoming
7/27/2007 J Montague 5 Pelican - City of Echoes
6/8/2005 J Montague 8.5 Pelican - March Into the Sea
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