Instrumental post-metal outfit Pelican return from a three-year hiatus with Ataraxia/Taraxis, a four-song EP that condenses all of the band’s strengths into five compact tunes, clocking in at less than 20 satisfying minutes. The disc combines two heavy, multi-textured tracks with two ethereal, post-rock sound collages. All four cuts are fully formed and thoughtfully conceived, and they all display the growth the Pelican have undergone since their sprawling 2009 hit-and-miss album What We all Come to Need.
Most significantly, Pelican have learned to cut the fat, creating expansive and innovative compositions that last less than five minutes each — not that less is always more, especially in post-metal, where extended, repetitive jams are often hypnotic and transcendent. However, Pelican have been there and done that and done that some more, and are now seeking new ways to write captivating songs.
Ataraxia/Taraxis starts with a wavering drone and a deep, sparse echoing pulse before sublime, undistorted guitars weave around a minimalistic keyboard line. “Lathe Biosas” breaks the relative silence with low, doom-y guitar riffs and slamming drums that build and descend in tandem with softer beats and overlapping guitar melodies. “Parasite Colony” feels like a classic confrontation of good vs. evil, as wobbly downtuned riffs, crushing power chords, ringing, improvised guitar leads and a commanding bass line battle for dominance. The EP closes with “Taraxis,” an ominous, cinematic piece built around a simple drumbeat, acoustic guitars that seem to spring in and out of tune as they’re played, melodies of feedback. At the halfway point, the music fades, and electronic maracas mingle with spare keyboards until the song builds and builds again with multi-layered guitars, vacuum cleaner distortion and a staggered beat that all resonate like the finale at a Fourth of July fireworks display. What can only guess what their next presentation will bring.