Related Articles: Music, All

Pelican – City of Echoes

Released on Hydra Head, 6/05/07

In the opening lines of “Bliss in Concrete”, the first track off the newest release from Chicago’s instrumental sludge-rockers Pelican, all I can think of is that Nirvana song, “Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through the Strip”. You may not know this one as it was originally released as the B-side to their “Heart Shaped Box” single (before you start with your silent judgments and criticisms about how much of a dork I am just know this: it was a gift). All that aside “Gallons” is a decent, albeit slightly excessive, standard grunge number that I was surprised to hear the likes of some fourteen years later coming from a progressive post-rock doom-metal band.

But as “Bliss in Concrete” progresses so does the sound, and in typical Pelican fashion, it’s not long before the wall of guitars heighten and break off into harmonic thirds, fifths, and minors just as the double bass drum kicks in. Ahhhhh. Doomy.

I had many a moment when listening to City of Echoes that was tinged with slight recognition, as displayed above. The album is certainly a departure from their earlier material, which is not to say they are a changed band but one that has aged well while simultaneously expanding their sound, style, and influences. They have developed a more melodic and pensive formula, shifting from the minor-heavy movements on their 2003 release Australasia to lighter and shorter numbers such as the title track “City of Echoes”.

Throughout the album the speed shifts dramatically, pointedly, and with an air of triumph and achievement. The lines are light and optimistic, propelled ever forward by the driving rhythms, an over-all feeling of positivity and by the good of the cause. It expresses a feeling of: We did it, we ALL win!

"City of Echoes stands for the feeling of sameness brought on by globalization. It's visiting countries and seeing slight differences through the window, only to end up at the club and feel like you didn't see anything at all," explains guitarist Schroeder-Lebec. "But it's also a tribute to the joy that burns inside when you reach a place and people who don't speak your language are rooting for your songs and welcoming you into their unique environment."

From the acoustic “Winds with Hands” to the atmospheric “Far From Fields”, City of Echoes is a celebration. It is a collection of feeling from a band well schooled on the ways of the road-weary traveler without the trite lyrics and monotonous melodies. And while they may have undergone a lighter sonic shift, there is certainly no lack of their signature weight of sound and concept.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars