Pelican – Ataraxia/Taraxis

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Three years have passed since Pelican celebrated their 10 year anniversary with the release of the LP What We All Come to Need. But that was also the year that saw the quartet finding full-time jobs outside the band due to the subsequent downturn in the US economy and “decline in sales in the music industry”, according to guitarist Trevor de Brauw.

They are now very much realists about changes within the music business, having been a full-time enterprise during the albums of The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw (2005), City of Echoes (2007), and What We All Come to Need (2009). Despite touring for a sizeable portion of the year during this period, half of the band had already relocated to Los Angeles. This is when they began recording in their own spaces and without scheduled rehearsal time. Any workable compositions and ideas would be forwarded to each other via the internet, and then eventually put together and finished off in a studio in Chicago.

If City of Echoes was shaped by the intense experience of touring, then Ataraxia/Taraxis was formed from the ability to compose in near-solitude, in an place away from pressures of studio time. Yet this long distance relationship hasn’t disrupted the creative flow of the band, who still seem to be facing in the same direction. As Drummer Larry Herweg has put it, the band are able to “kind of get a game plan of what to do so that when we are together [...] we’re all on the same page right away”.

Without doubt the middle two pieces ‘Lathe Biosas’ and ‘Parasite Colony’ are very much what listeners would expect from Pelican. Multi-textured and heavy, this alternative “post-metal” echoes much of their previous work. Track durations on this release have shortened, which will be good news for attendees who find a 75min live set of 5 or 6 tracks a little too much to handle at once.

It’s the EP’s title tracks ‘Ataraxia’ and ‘Taraxis’ that offer a fresh dynamism to their sound, and it is perhaps these two that most reflect how the band are growing towards a new creative line. As well as the droning “aeroplane” intro to ‘Ataraxia’ (the sound of which remains throughout the remainder of the track), deft layers of acoustic guitar are juxtaposed against a few stabs of synthesiser and a brief stint of electronic drums. ‘Taraxis’ continues this theme with an even greater number of acoustic sounds being cleanly picked and ringing in your ears. A warbling electric lead guitar struggles to get its voice over the top of the eventual crescendo of overdriven chords and string bending riffs. These two tracks do pose a problem for the band, though: how would they incorporate the acoustic and electric live on stage?

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