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After several months and at least as many spins, Pelican’s Ataraxia/Taraxis EP stands as a decent record with several satisfying moments–none of which accumulate to meet the bar set previously by this ambitious and powerful band. A less substantial band might be accused of entering the torpor of their autumnal period. In Pelican’s case, I’m surprised that maturity doesn’t weave so easily into their music when there would seem to be more than ample room for it. Although Ataraxia/Taraxis draws its shapes from the deep wells of City of Echoes, Australasia, and Pelican’s high water mark The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw, it lacks the organizational narratives that makes the first three connect.
That’s not to say this record is without its strengths. The title track and “Lathe Biosas” constitute a powerful representation of Pelican’s enduring virtues: mammoth, discursive riffs, bleakly delicate interludes, and some of the most rhythmically creative motifs in the instrumental post-metal field. What seems to be lacking is a thesis statement, which may seem like a strange criticism, and one more appropriate for a dissertation than a rock album. However, Pelican established very early on that they’re much more than a rock band.
Perhaps it’s a curse of arriving so fully formed, but prior to City of Echoes, Pelican never failed to communicate an essence, however ineffable, and that’s why they’ve endured in the homogeneous landscape of instrumental metal. Since then, there seems to be a growing desire within the band to simplify their internal equation, to play music that just gets in and gets out, without the overhead of seven- to ten-minute-long epics. This unfortunately results in Ataraxia/Taraxis being a collection of earnest, even beautiful half-statements, all of which communicate that the Pelican formula is irreducible.
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