One always has expectations when listening to a new album by an established band for the first time. Chicago’s Pelican have a reputation for expansive oceans of sound that quite literally are the sound track to some gargantuan military like operation. On first hearing “Forever Becoming” those distinctive swathes of sound are still pummelling the ears, but now they have an edge to them. Where once they may have been ethereal in their majesty, Pelican are now showing their teeth. The departure of founding guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec, replaced byDallas Thomas, may possibly have been the catalyst to spark this metamorphosis. It has been argued elsewhere that by 2009’s “What We All Come To Need”, the band had hit a creative brick wall, too comfortable with their niche sound and content to meander. Whatever one’s feelings about this, the arrangement here seem cohesive and feed off many of the elements of their previous releases. Whereas other bands that are known primarily for instrumental sheets of guitar are possibly becoming more melodic in their approach, Pelican have gone back in to the garage.
‘Terminal’ is a lugubrious opener, which draws on an industrial like template to gain its’ atmospherics. It is not until you hear the demented progressions on ‘Deny the Absolute’ that you realise what the band have achieved here. It has tight momentum, an ominous riff and could be argued to be one of the most ferocious pieces the band has ever committed to release. This is no longer music for melancholic contemplation, this is music to unpack the air guitar, close the doors and let go. The pace does not let up either on ‘The Tundra’ which barges forward over its’ five minute duration, before exploding into chaos. ‘Immutable Dusk’ does hark back to a more reflective Pelican, whilst ‘Threnody’ explores the changes in dynamic, which may have come to be associated with bands such as Mogwai….
Chicago band Cave, over their six-year history, have earned themselves a reputation as being the torchbearers of the contemporary “Krautrock” sound. Locked progressions and riffs that repeat just long enough to be irritating to hear, or fascinating to immerse into, depending upon the listeners’ proclivity. In many ways it would be too simplistic to make reference to such seminal, and oft cited names such as Can, Faust, Neu and Amon Duul. Reference has also been made to the similarities between their style of playing and bands such asStereolab. Sadly comparisons such as this can a hindrance in putting contemporary music such as this into context. Far from harking back to a golden era of repletion in music, Cave brings motorik right up to date.
The five tracks that make up “Threace” each clock in at around the nine or ten minute mark, and palpably push the listeners perception of what may be possible with repetition. The compositions themselves are in no way particularly complex or angular in structure in the way that some “post rock” outfits take on the hypnotic. ‘Sweaty Fingers’ for example is laden with a funky groove, which owes as much to early 1970’s Miles Davis and the relentless momentum of “Rite” by Julian Cope, as it does to the German experimental scene. The repeating motifs genuinely get deep inside the listeners psyche, as sparse guitar and bass lines scratch away for four or five minutes. Again, depending upon the listeners’ point of view, this repetition is absurd, or a deeply spiritual experience.
‘Silver Headband’ quickly puts its’ cards on the table and lets the listener know that what you will be hearing here is unadulterated repetition, with no obvious change in dynamic and no significant layering of sound. Here we have music that is trying its hardest to be interesting and different, but music which is giving the listener space to immerse themselves and allowing them permission to indulge. It could be argued that compositions such as ‘Arrows Myth’ and ‘Shiaawka’, with their suggestion of mystical jazz-rock, do benefit from, and become more accessible because of, layers of instrumentation, which bring to mind the mid-1970’s jazz-rock of Frank Zappa on albums such as “The Grand Wazoo”…