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Instrumental Hard Rock, Teasing as It Pummels

Pelican makes instrumental hard rock that whispers as much as it shouts.
Pelican makes instrumental hard rock that whispers as much as it shouts.

The Chicago band Pelican came upon its instrumental sound in a bit of serendipity, when its members couldn't find a lead singer equal to the power and depth of their songs' melodies and arrangements. Drawing from sources as disparate as Black Sabbath, the indie-instrumentalists in Tortoise and the self-flagellating noise-masters in Swans, Pelican makes instrumental hard rock that whispers as much as it shouts, and teases as much as it pummels.

"Winds with Hands," one of the quietest cuts from Pelican's recent album City of Echoes, begins with acoustic strumming of an edgy but simple folk-tinged melody, building with each repetition of the tune. At the moment when just about any other band might launch into a big, song-like restatement of the melody, Pelican slows down, as if air is being let out of a balloon. A half-blink of silence follows before the group launches into a delicate denouement, complete with intricate picking. The insistent electric guitar that had been quietly coloring the sound behind the tandem acoustics starts to build, and the other instruments drop back and let it fly. Then, like a little tempest, "Winds with Hands" ends as quickly as it started, just like that.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

This column originally ran on Aug. 2, 2007.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Cecile Cloutier