In early April, Chicago-based instrumental group Pelican unleashed an EP of newly recorded material called Ataraxia/Taraxis. After listening to the album over and over again, which was recorded in four different studios, I have been able to pinpoint the significance of its beauty and possible opening to a new sound for the band. The first track of the album, “Ataraxia,” begins with a dark escalating sound pushing its way into something completely unexpected.
This is a pretty standard beginning to any Pelican album, but what we find in this album differs from their previous intro tracks. The first thing you hear is a crumbling distorted bass note followed by an ambient piano-like sound, leaving immense anticipation to see just how new and fresh the rest will be. The second track, “Lathe Biosas,” brings about a theme that makes Pelican just what they are. It fluctuates from a poppy upbeat riff and ascends downward into a dark lower tuned sludgy sound all within the same riff. The drums sound simple yet very emotional, which allows there to be more space for all the other musicians in the group on this track.
“Parasite Colony” is where the dirt comes. This to me is what I will describe as one of the heaviest and sludgiest Pelican songs ever. It is very apparent that the two middle tracks are the ones that give that fix needed to any loving Pelican fan in that they are the tracks that stay true to the Pelican sound. The last cut, “Taraxis,” is the one that truly made my jaw drop. It’s the biggest example of the experimentation Pelican have engaged in since 2009’s What We All Come To Need. It uses new aspects of drumming, tons of acoustics with the stringed instruments, and new forms of distortion.
What is perhaps the most interesting thing about this album is its title. The definition of “ataraxia” is to be free from fear and anxiety. That is exactly what Pelican are doing here. While half of the album stays true to the Pelican feel, the other half is a demonstration of the band making an attempt at freeing themselves and fearlessly exploring new horizons in the evolution of their music.
In A Word: Expansive