EP Review: PELICAN The Cliff
Pelican's discography has gotten increasingly "single"-heavy over the years, so it's not surprising that they've opted to rebound from last year's excellent live album, Artika, with another stopgap EP, The Cliff. Heavily reliant on remixes, this 24 minute mini-album largely showcases its title track while also giving fans a taste of something all-too-rare in the band's discography: vocals.
The last time we heard vocals on a Pelican release was "Final Breath", the closing track on 2009's What We All Come to Need, which were performed by Allen Epley (The Life and Times, Shiner). Epley makes an encore appearance here, crooning wistfully in his sultry whiskey-infused manner like a grittier Chris Cornell. "The Cliff" is about as stripped down as Pelican have ever been heard, a curt four minute verse-chorus-verse exercise that nicely breaks them from their familiar mold.
Those looking for more familiar fare will enjoy the two remixes courtesy of Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Jesu) and the tag team duo of Aaron Harris (Isis, Sumac) and Bryant Clifford Meyer (Palms, Isis). Broadrick in particular makes the song his own, stripping out the vocals and leaving behind a skeletal drone that sounds like a dead ringer for his own act, Jesu. The AC & BCM remix is more faithful to the original, retaining the vocals in a filtered form and overlaying the song's basic structure with post-rock/industrial flourishes that actually complements the traditional Pelican sound even more so than the original rendition.
Closing out the four-song set is "The Wait", a somber, reflective piece sans vocals that recalls Dylan Carlson's recent Earth material as much as it does classic Pelican. While not employing any non-standard instruments, the song does have a similarly weary noir vibe to it. Ultimately, though, it's a fairly disposable addition to the catalog. The key selling point of this release is the original studio mix of "The Cliff", with the remainder of the EP being non-essential lagniappe. Which is kind of what EPs have historically been anyway.