10 April 2012
by Ruth Booth
I’ve got a straw man here, and my thumb’s got an itch only a zippo can scratch. It all started with the press release for this EP. It states that with the members of Pelican now spread out across the country, and resulting changes to the ways in they record and write, “the EP represents a new chapter in the band’s evolution”. While all that maybe true – sorry Trevor, but say what?
See, most of us picture our favourite bands living together in student sitcom harmony, like The Monkees, or The Osbournes. As shown by the recent Bill Ward/Black Sabbath split, that’s not always the case. While I’m not suggesting Pelican are only communicating by lawyer, my point is life gets in the way – whether it’s contracts, money, family, the diabetus or whatever. And an EP like Pelican’s Ataraxia/Taraxis has much to bring to any debate on what we expect from a band dealing with Real Life in 2012.
Admittedly it’s been a while since we last heard from Pelican. Though never the most prolific of bands, since 2009’s What We All Come To Need, we’ve only had their 10th anniversary vinyl box set – plus the release party’s one night-only doppelbock brew from 3Floyds. It’s no secret that the band are now spread out across four cities. For this new EP, Aaron Harris (yes, he who is formerly of Isis) and Kemble Walters recorded Larry Herweg’s drums in two separate studios, while Sanford Parker (whose former producer credits include Circle of Animals and Nachtmystium) toured
three two different studios to get Bryan Herweg, Trevor de Brauw and Laurent Schroeder-Lebec’s contributions down, not to mention handling mixing duties as well.
(**UPDATE** Trevor de Brauw himself has contacted us to further explain some of the more convoluted twists in the recording of Ataraxia/Taraxis – you can see his full comment down below, but we figured we’d add a few amendments to the previous paragraph too)
How far this has affected the results, though, is near-impossible to tell. Recent MPFreebie, ‘Lathe Biosas’, is a solid bridge from the last studio record – moreso, the ponderous scrunch of ‘Parasite Colony’. That leaves a pair of title tracks, and frankly, while ‘Parasite Colony’ in particular is sweet as sugar maple whiskey, it’s these two that really intrigue. ‘Ataraxia’ kicks off with a airplane drone, dropping into alien pulses of sound, layered with subdued acoustic melodies right out of the best spaghetti Western soundtracks. Its evil twin spins warped acoustic lines around each other and into a squalling mass. If you’re looking for that “new chapter in the band’s evolution” from the press release, here’s the place to start.
That the four studios/two engineers format isn’t an issue is part-band, part- the mixing efforts of Sanford Parker. The sound is cohesive as any of their previous work, and where it does feel fragmented, only heightens the more expansive, less claustrophobic nature of those tracks.With this in mind, it seems odd that press has been geared so much around the effect of location on the EP. But here’s what gets my hooved pagan deity: It’s there because we, us, expected it would.
It’s an automatic assumption that geography is a universal band killer, that once musicians start moving away from each other, creative partnerships will die and thence the music is doomed. Why should art stop just because of that? Any artist worth their salt tries different ways of making stuff. Recent days have seen Hayato Imanishi post a photo of the DIY recording studio he’s created in a store-room for the new Cyclamen record, complete with duvets for sound-proofing. When we can send files around the world, build orchestras in our PCs, and record multi-viewer skype calls for podcasts, why we consider location to be some big obstacle is kind of strange.
Still, though constructed across state, studio and engineer boundaries, Ataraxia/Taraxis is a promising thought experiment – drenched in that unique textured blend of flavours that’s all their own, but still sees them exploring their own potential and new ways of doing so. Given that the last Pelican release was technically a beer, that’s pretty much business as normal.
Sounds Like: ISIS, Mogwai, Black Sabbath
Standout Tracks: Ataraxia, Parasite Colony