Pelican - Ataraxia/Taraxis EP
2012 Southern Lord
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
As ever, those lads in Pelican are busy dudes. Aside from delivering a recent split with These Arms Are Snakes, Pelican gears up for an active April with their upcoming 7-inch vinyl release, "Playing Enemy," due for release on the 21st.
If you're a devout follower of the band, though, you know Pelican's motif has always been to prime their audience with an obligatory kickoff EP to what will be followed by a future full-length. Thus we have Ataraxia/Taraxis, Pelican's four song EP which gives us a somewhat safe and somewhat exploratory peep through the keyhole of their distortion-fed parallax of art metal.
It's a widely shared opinion Pelican refined their craft on 2009's What We All Come to Need and Ataraxia/Taraxis continues the trend with crisp production, tight songwriting, angular mid-tempo shredding and all of the booming chord slides they've perfected at this point. What that means is Ataraxia/Taraxis is a kickback piece with two center cuts of familiarity bookended by two revelatory steps outside the box.
Indicated by the title of this EP, "Ataraxia" and "Taraxis" are the extensive intro and outtros to the meaty and rhythmic middle songs, "Lathe Biosas" and "Parasite Colony." If you'll excuse the blase terminology, the latter two songs are so Pelican-esque you'll either sink and smile in comfort or you'll scratch your chin a bit and hope their next LP takes more of a risk as "Ataraxia" and "Taraxis" does by mingling acoustic paths with sequencers and Moogs.
Then again, consider what's implied by Pelican's titling here. Ataraxia is the Greek term for a lucid, relaxed state of mind, to rid one's self of worry. Certainly this EP carries an epichurial free-float to much of it and this scheme works like a charm. Particularly once the listener is sedated by Pelican's lofty platitudes within the first four minutes of "Taraxis" before they're sucker punched with a choppy and loud deneumont. Quite a brash finish Pelican delivers on this abbreviated ride through their tone-drenched pastures, one which allows for a stopover at a sedate audile lake they've kept mostly in private.
As always, worth the investment of your time. In this case, you either step into Ataraxia/Taraxis without preoccupation and allow Pelican to noodle you along for twenty minutes, or you open this EP's portal and study to your heart's content. Either way, you'll end up at the same destination, which is why Pelican is just that danged smart.