It seems fitting, upon listening to Pelican's music, that the band hails from Chicago. When Tortoise and their contemporaries ushered in a new wave of instrumental music over a decade ago it was a pastiche of genre-defying sound, simultaneously cohesive and expansive in influence. Similarly, Pelican's songs touch on so much from the canon of rock music. Never content to remain static over the course of their almost decade long career, 2009 finds Pelican has shifted gears once again. This year sees them on a new label, Southern Lord — a label helmed by Greg Anderson, whose own axe conjurations in SUNN, Goatsnake and Engine Kid have long been admired by the Pelican camp – and presenting a new full length. What We All Come To Need is Pelican through and through and the apex of their creative aspirations. It is the album that straddles most confidently the fine line between adherence to roots and the mining of the unexplored.
When the quartet's first full length, Australasia, came out in late 2003, it was an experiment in crushing heaviness, albeit melodic and compositionally complex that set them apart from their contemporaries. The songs excelled in exploring layers: where there were glacier-thick walls of guitars, there were also shifts and nuances that gave the songs room to breathe. These nuances became even more pronounced on Pelican's 2005 sophomore album, The Fire in our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw. Pegged early on as a “metal” band, it was with this second full length that it became apparent that this label was an oversimplification as the group had more in common with Slint and Hum than Slayer. With 2007’sCity of Echoes yet another step in Pelican's evolution was unveiled. This new album showcased urgency, more twists and unexpected turns; songs with more of a lyrical feel. And as evidenced by the post-DC-punk influenced title track, the band's disparate influences were presented with increasing clarity as guitar dynamics and rhythmic interplay came out from behind the wall of sound that were evident on previous recordings. With shorter songs and a pronounced live feel, City of Echoes was an ode to the road: a musical manifesto to pile into a van and travel for months at a time—something they had done relentlessly.
Ephemeral, a three-song teaser EP released in early 2009, paved the way for the new full length. Trevor de Brauw reckons the band was once again at the mercy of “the riff” … how Pelican could be more riff-oriented than they had evidenced on each of their previous albums is hard to imagine, but it should be noted that Dylan Carlson, of Earth fame, lent the band a hand in re-creating an Earth song from their first 7”. And that speaks volumes as to what those “riffs” would continue to be like … beautifully heavy.
In July 2009 Pelican ventured to Seattle to lay down a new album with Chris Common, who has helmed records for a variety of bands, from Minus The Bear to These Arms Are Snakes. Eight songs were recorded over three weeks at Robert Lange, Red Room Studios, and Elektrokitty. Beautifully heavy results? You bet. As punishing as it is calming, What We All Come To Need is Pelican at their most inspired and sonically adept, delivering 50 minutes of weighty riffs and textured progressions in momentous succession. This isn’t maturation as much as it is confidence and purpose, and the latter are stamped on every note. Greg Anderson, Aaron Turner (ISIS), Allen Epley (Life And Times), as well as Ben Verellen (Helms Alee) guested, lending the record organic diversity.