Pelican and a Meeting of the Needs

Photography by Andrew Weiss. Montage/design by Seldon Hunt.Caught in just the right sunlight, the musical sprawl of influential Chicago instrumentalists Pelican is downright beautiful. Fortunately, it seems to be the exact appropriate time of day on their fourth full-length (first for Southern Lord), What We all Come to Need.

Taking cues from their earlier days with Australasia, much of urbane crunch that seemed to typify 2007?s City of Echoes is replaced here by open soundscaping and lush dynamics. That?s not to say Pelican are repeating themselves by any stretch. The growth of the band is evident in the careful structuring of opener ?Glimmer,? and What We all Come to Need only gets more complex from there. But to do a time comparison, both albums have eight tracks, City of Echoes was 42 minutes, What We all Come to Need is 51. There?s clearly been a shift in focus.

A Greg Anderson guitar contribution to second track ?The Creeper? is immediately identifiable, and Anderson is but one of several guests throughout the LP. Isis? Aaron Turner shows up in a similar capacity on the title track, Harkonen?s Ben Verellen donated bass to the opener, and The Life and Times? Allen Epley contributes vocals (!) to closer ?Final Breath.?

I like this picture because it looks like they're having fun.That?s right. Vocals. And damn appropriate ones too. I?ve always wondered what Pelican would sound like with a singer, whether they?d go for a screaming approach or something cleaner, gentler and more suited to their shoegazing side. Epley?s voice is soothing, mixed perfectly with the instruments surrounding (kudos to producer/engineer Chris Common) and on first listen, barely noticeable. You almost take it for granted immediately, like it?s always been there and isn?t anything novel at all.

But if that?s the case, it?s only so because of the seven tracks of rich guitar-led hypnosis that come before. Pelican take their time developing each track and offer a subtle diversity to their songwriting that shows up on multiple listens. But you know, sometimes, and especially with a band like Pelican, who on? ?Strung up from the Sky? skirt a fine line between sensitive indie rock and rumbling low-end riffing, it?s best to just let yourself be swept up by the tones around you. To not think about it. To just go along. What We all Come to Need is one of those albums.

And when you think about it, maybe that is what we all need sometimes. Maybe that?s what Pelican need. Maybe they need each other. Maybe they need a return to the escapist rural pastures they create in their songs. Maybe what we all come to need is to let go of the anxiety, the pressure, the tension, and to float for a while down some invisible metaphysical stream. Maybe I?m reading too much into it, I don?t know. What I do know is that if Pelican have created an album so evocative and enticing, that can?t possibly be a bad thing.

Pelican on MySpace

Southern Lord Recordings

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