Thursday, April 5, 2012

Pelican - Ataraxia/Taraxis (2012)

With some time away from the road, Pelican have given themselves an opportunity to breathe. Having toured at a grinding pace in support of their last full length, "What We All Come To Need," it was time to step away. From four separate studios, the members wrote and recorded their pieces of the larger whole, and the new EP, "Ataraxia/Taraxis" became the end result. Taking their talent for post-metal grunge, and adding in a healthy dose of acoustics, these four songs have come to represent the band at this stage in their career. And the maturity on display here gives us hope for the future.

Taking a more subtle approach, the opening track "Ataraxia" builds slowly from nothing. As layers of bass, keys, and clean guitars enter, you sit back and brace yourself for the explosion that always seems imminent with any disc that bears the Pelican name. But while the low rumble of the bass is ever increasing, this track serves as the pre-meal beverage, wetting your lips for the main course to come. And "Lathe Biosas" is exactly that entre, blowing through your speakers with wailing distortion and a rousing stomp that is sure to leave you feeling satisfied. The guitar melody, in and of itself, would be enough to call the track a success. But the bass work is too clean, too crisp to leave out. Even the oft criticized drums seem to have found their stride here, filling every gap with a snare or cymbal. The changing of tempos and time signatures keeps you off balance, but in the best possible way.

The slow groove of "Parasite Colony" is a very different style from its predecessor, more moody and dark. The band reinforce the low end, even in the guitars, while still moving forward with a rich melody. Whether it is in the deep, sludge sections, or the more atmospheric clean ones, the guitars have found new focus. Combined with the sheer strength of the united rhythm section, and you are witness to a monster of a sound, as fierce as anything the band have put out before. The track chooses to stay at home, not swaying too much away from the comfort zone, and avoids any unnecessary lateral movement. But again, a dramatic shift in sound comes as soon as the first strum of "Taraxis" kicks in. Clean, acoustic guitars and a constant tap of drums are the main attraction. A slightly twangy melody comes through, but so subtly, so softly, that it barely pokes its head out of the mix. The heavy, metallic edge that is so often the focal point of their music has taken a back seat to something that could easily come from an "Unplugged" set. That is, of course, until the rattling distortion rears its ugly head. As the earth shaking sound builds, this is the Pelican you know and love.

There is not a single man or woman in the music industry who could ever accuse Pelican of being lazy, or anything but "road warriors." The grueling touring schedule could have killed a lesser band. They earned every minute they took away from it all. With that distance put between themselves and the music, each member had a sense of clarity that may have faded away otherwise. With the powers of the internet lending a hand, and some new ideas in mind, they manage to, once again, give their fans something to cheer about. One can only wonder what's next.


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