Pelican

City of Echoes (Hydra Head Records)

On its third album, this Chicago quartet continues its quest to incorporate the best bits of shoegaze, stoner rock, and heavy music -- and then flip the bird at the genre conventions of all three. Since debut album Australasia, the staunch road dogs have progressively drifted away from their earliest, most metal compositions toward more cerebral -- and dare we say softer -- territory. It works, although it's bound to enrage many fans of the band's previous discs. Each of the eight tracks is, as before, instrumental, with the focus on the progression through a core riff. Each song centers on a droning chord cycle, with each pass through revealing another layer, another added guitar melody that propels it to a churning end. It's heady stuff, probably best digested along with a spliff. Not to say it's all gloom, or even doom. A good chunk of City of Echoes is considerably lightened-up, heading into major keys or, on a track like "Winds with Hands," mostly acoustics. Still, the following tune, "Dead Between the Walls," veers back into the best kind of meandering sludge. It's the sort of aural tug-of-war in which Pelican excels. Fans of groups like Isis, Mono, and Red Sparowes already know to pick up this album. Now so does anyone else interested in smart, moody instrumental rock.

 
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