Review: Pelican – Ataraxia/Taraxis EP [9.5 out of 10]

By Aniruddh “Andrew” Bansal

Chicago-based instrumental quartet Pelican have been around for more than a decade, releasing four studio albums and four EPs in the process. The absence of a vocalist has allowed the band complete freedom to express their musicianship, and as a result, they’ve encapsulated a tremendous amount of diversity in their music over the years. It’s diverse to the extent that it’s nearly impossible to categorize this band under a particular label or sub-genre, and ‘instrumental’ is really the best way to describe them. Their latest full-length album “What We All Come To Need” was released in late 2009, and the new EP, titled “Ataraxia/Taraxis”, serves as the follow-up fans have been waiting for.

I’m loving the influx of EPs and short albums that have been released this year. Bands from all over the globe, regardless of whether they are hugely popular or little known, are seemingly preferring to release albums and EPs under 20 minutes in duration, as opposed to genuine full-length albums, and I’m absolutely fine with that. As I’ve said a couple of times before while reviewing such albums, their shortness only raises their level of impact further. Inverloch, Albatross, Vestal Claret, Cop Problem, Witchaven, Mouth Of The Serpent, Solar Deity, and the Melvins are just a few examples of bands that have already released such albums this year, and I’ve loved every one of them. Pelican’s new release is similar in this regard, and the 4-track, 18-minute EP achieves its aim quite successfully.

The opening track “Ataraxia” gives the EP a beautiful start, and boasts of some excellently crafted acoustic fills and ambient sounds to go with them. “Lathe Biosas” keeps the atmosphere going but is much heavier in style, owing mainly to the sludgy guitar riffs. “Parasite Colony”, on the other hand, has a prominent doom feel to it, and the songwriting in this slow, melancholic tune is simply brilliant. But perhaps my favorite on this EP is the 4th and final track “Taraxis”, wherein the acoustic guitar builds up the kind of mental ambience that’s not too dissimilar to the image that forms the cover artwork. The predominantly acoustic segment leads into a quiet interlude, followed by a heavy section to bring the song, and indeed the EP to an end.

Pelican have come up with yet another great release that will certainly be enjoyed by their longtime fans, and once again, it’s very difficult to classify it as anything other than ‘instrumental’. As compared to the lengthy tunes on some of their past releases, I’d say the music on here is more compact, and thus more ‘accessible’ and easier for the listener to grasp. If you are a keen explorer of bands you are unfamiliar with, I’d encourage you to ignore Pelican’s genre labels, listen to the music on “Ataraxia/Taraxis”, and then decide for yourself. If you’ve seen Pelican labeled as ‘post-metal’ anywhere on the internet, don’t be fooled by that categorization, as it doesn’t do any justice to the band’s level of musicianship. The quartet’s prowess is showcased in plenty on this release. A delightful composition with a tongue-twisting title, “Ataraxia/Taraxis” has something in it for listeners of all kinds of music.

Rating: 9.5/10

Record Label: Southern Lord
Release Date: April 10th 2012

Track Listing:
1. Ataraxia
2. Lathe Biosas
3. Parasite Colony
4. Taraxis