After the barnstorming The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw, Pelican were always going to struggle to follow it up with something equally as ground breaking and grand. City of Echoes sees the Chicago band strip back their approach and simplify their recording process. There’s eight songs, all of which struggle to pass the five minute mark. It was a conscious effort for the band to be more concise. Post-metal, or whatever this is now classified as, has always been about length and exploring ideas through grand, meandering tracks. This is about as “pop” as it gets.
This more simple approach reaps instant dividends. As a post-rock enthusiast, tracks that go on for half an hour are my bread and butter, but City of Echoes bristles with a kind of energy and momentum that’s rarely heard in these kind of records. The concise nature of the songs means it’s full of riffs, there’s not much time for the quiet passages that classify this brand of music. Far From Fields races through four minutes of dueling guitar riffs, clattering drums and has more ideas than the entire last record by Mogwai. Pelican might be concise, but they’ve not sacrificed their loudness for it. The main riff of Fields makes a formidable wall of sound, off which the drums and bass crash, splintering into a thousand pieces on the floor. Winds With Hands is an acoustic take on it all. The guitars shuffle and shake, the lack of drums doesn’t seem to be a problem, they manage to keep the rhythm going purely with the guitars. The delicate playing and intricate details of the song just go to show that they can’t just play at 11, there’s some skill and songwriting craft that goes into their songs. Lost in the Headlights swoops and soars around more incredible riffs. The pace shifts and changes throughout, keeping you guessing as to where they’re going to go next.
A lot has been made of drummer Larry Herweg’s inability to keep up with the musical development of his bandmates. It’s certainly an area of the record that sounds flat and unambitious. It often sounds as though the drums have been recorded in a cardboard box. However, the sheer size and noise of the guitars steers you away from dwelling on that for too long. Sure it’s hard for bands of the post-rock fraternity to really craft something different and Pelican haven’t really changed the mix that much on City Of Echoes. However, the channeling of their ideas and the concise nature of this record is what makes it sound like a breath of fresh air.