Pelican – Ataraxia/Taraxis EP (Southern Lord Records)

Monday, 25th March 2013
Rating: 6.5/10

Fully instrumental post-metallers Pelican have a habit of putting out EPs before full-lengths, which gives a taste of what’s coming next, the one exception being for City of Echoes unless you count Pink Mammoth (which you don’t). Anyway, it’s a good trick to have, whetting the taste buds, letting people know that there’s something bigger coming and trying out new ground.

They’ve gone for a testing the new approach here with Ataraxia/Taraxis. Following the lead from their last full-length What We All Come to Need, Pelican have gone for shorter songs than they would have in the past, however they’ve also lost a lot of their previous impact. The opener, “Ataraxia” is an odd one, acting more like a mood setting introduction rather than feeling like a full son. Much like the words meaning it does give a sense of peace and tranquillity, gently lulling, which is just what you don’t expect.

“Lathe Biosas” then kicks in with that familiar Pelican sound, driving drums, big ringing notes and punchy riffs. A real winner on repeat listens, it’s got an upbeat, searching feel in the main riff. Even when they shift back and introduce sparseness into the song there’s still plenty happening, like a pulse in the background. That they bring out the scratching, rhythmic playing at the half way point is going to raise smiles and get bodies swaying, before the main riff comes crashing back in again like a wave.

“Parasite Colony” is the one that would have fit most into what Pelican have been doing on their last two albums, City Of Echoes and What We All Come To Need, that shorter, sharper sound where the plodding opening gives way to a ream of shining open notes, while the bass rumbles away in the background like a content machine. Bringing things to a close is “Taraxis” which opens softly on acoustic guitars and is again a song that could easily have fit on the last two releases. A slightly soothing song it relies on a repeated rhythmic riff and high, almost flute-like guitar line, the two pieces playing nicely around each other. This drops away to an almost empty middle of mild shaker/percussion, before the walls close in horribly and Pelican introduce a claustrophobic, nightmare squall that’ll leave you unsettled when the record closes.

So if Pelican are indicating where they’re going to go with the next full length it’s fair to assume the songs will be shorter still, around the five-minute mark, with a little more light than heft. It’s not fair to say that they’re not doing anything memorable or pushing forward anymore, but you have to wonder just how much Pelican have left in them that is still interesting.

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