Pelican: Ataraxia/Taraxis

Though it's brief, Ataraxia/Taraxis is a hopeful foreshadowing of better music to come from Pelican.



Label: Southern Lord
US Release Date: 2012-04-10
UK Release Date: 2012-04-09
Artist Website

Pelican's move to the Southern Lord label for their 2009 release What We All Come to Need was rather fitting. The label, home of (and really the product of) drone doom lords Sunn 0))) is well known for its crushing heaviness, which a post-metal band like Pelican is no stranger to. Predictably, What We All Come to Need showed a heavier side of Pelican. That album's best track, "The Creeper" (which featured Sunn 0)))'s Greg Anderson on guitar), began with a thickly distorted guitar drone, which gave way to another patently crunchy guitar riff. Yet for all of its riff-heavy bluster, What We All Come to Need was surprisingly underwhelming. Pelican's sound had become unusually streamlined. The music was intense, sure, but conventional melodic and song structures dominated What We All Come to Need. Pelican are no stranger to instrumental metal's atypical song structures; the longer tracks on albums like The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw are proof of that.

Simply put, Pelican's move to a heavier sonic involved the band taking on more straightforward songwriting, which in more ways than one undermined the songcraft present on albums prior to What We All Come to Need. Fortunately, however, with the four-song EP Ataraxia/Taraxis, there's a strong indication that the foibles of the record before it aren't likely to repeat themselves come the next LP. Though a scant 17 minutes, Ataraxia/Taraxis is a hopeful foreshadowing of what's likely to come next from Pelican.

The EP can easily be divided into two halves. It begins and ends with acoustic-based tracks that sandwich the heavier tracks in between. The former of the two halves is where the EP really excels. They reveal a doomier side to Pelican, one that's spooky more in atmosphere rather than the sludginess of the distortion. "Ataraxia" is the most atmospheric of the stuff here, building slowly in tension as a downtuned acoustic guitar winds its way through sparse arpeggios. Equally good is the closing track "Taraxis". Though the beginning sounds like an acoustic version of a typical Pelican track, halfway through the song calms down into a section reminiscent of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Songs like "Untitled" and "Winds With Hands" from The Fire in Our Throats and City of Echoes,, respectively, were excellent demonstrations of a more organic sonic for Pelican. On Ataraxia/Taraxis that's even more evident.

The middle tracks of the EP, while good, don't quite rid of the weaker elements that made What We All Come to Need so underwhelming. The best of the two is "Lathe Biosas", which features a Russian Circles-esque midsection that is bound to be absolutely killer in a live setting. The lead riff on "Parasite Colony" is boilerplate Pelican, and like some of their previous material its Isis echoes are a little more than obvious. Fortunately both of these cuts are better than a majority of the songs on What We All Come to Need, but only by inches rather than miles.

As a whole, Ataraxia/Taraxis is both an excellent EP and an optimistic glance into the music that Pelican is likely to put out on their next release. As a fan of Pelican and Southern Lord, I was disappointed in the band's first release for the label, but it seems that Pelican aren't looking to merely rehash What We All Come to Need. But beyond the comparisons to that album, this does what many EPs don't do: it's concise, never boring, and it demands multiple listens. Things are looking up for these post-metallers.




Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.


A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.


The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.


90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

'Avengers: Endgame' Faces the Other Side of Loss

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our pandemic grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.