Pelican is no stranger to EP releases and I’m no stranger to Pelican EP releases (I own every one of them). Their choice to do a Pelican EP is based solely on (as far as I can tell), mood. Some of their EPs stand alone as original releases (Pelican and Ataraxia/Taraxia), while others carry a song that will appear on an upcoming full-length. However, The Cliff goes in a different direction by kidnapping a song off the preceding full-length and fucking with it three times over with vocal and/or industrial remixing before closing out with the only original track. It’s still unclear to me if this final track will pop up on a succeeding full-length or not but, most likely, the real question you’re asking yourself is should you put your hard-earned cash into the vinyl/digital print of The Cliff?
Well, I guess it depends on your taste. Opening track “The Cliff (Vocal Version)” is just that; the same version from Forever Becoming but with vocals by Allen Epley (Shiner, The Life and Times). If you own the What We All Come to Need release, then you will recognize Epley’s vox immediately from closer “Final Breath.” However, I think Epley’s voice suits “The Cliff” better as he delivers a performance more in line with his post-rocking The Life and Times. His vocals makes for a solid “re-imagining” that’s very catchy and accessible as long as Pelican fans can overcome the once-was-instrumental-but-now-is-not dilemma. “The Cliff” then undergoes two more remixes that transition it from the classic Pelican sound to some experimental/industrial renderings.
The first version is remixed by JK Broadrick (Godflesh, Jesu) and the other by Aaron Harris and Bryant Clifford Meyer (Isis, Palms). As you can imagine, Broadrick’s rendition is heavy, slow, and filled with industrial hauntings that double the original song length and plant you in the middle of a bassy, moody, electronic landscape of instrumental humming. It’s long and lacks memorability but Godflesh fans may dig this take on the Pelican formula. However, Broadrick’s remix of the Pelican classic “Angel Tears,” from March into the Sea EP , is far superior.
The Aaron Harris/Bryant “Cliff”-ord Meyer version also weighs in with some heavy bass, but backs off a tad on the industrial elements of the Broadrick offering. It also tampers with Epley’s vocals to produce an end-product full of reverb and echoing that gives the vox ghostly qualities. This version slows to an almost Sunn O))) drone toward the end and seamlessly transitions into the album closer, “The Wait.” Again, this remix is not overly memorable but it paves a deeper path than Broadrick’s mix. On the other hand, the closer is exactly what you would expect from a slower, melodic number from Pelican; a calming intro that slowly builds until distortion breaks the tension and depends greatly on “the riff” to prove its lasting worth. For Pelican enthusiasts, “The Wait” is the highlight of the album.
Though it’s not groundbreaking, The Cliff has some great dynamic range that compliments the performances. However, this release doesn’t have the staying power I crave from a Pelican EP. Even with its short length of 25 minutes, I find myself listening to the opener and then skipping to the closer. Sadly, this doesn’t make it worth the money to buy the vinyl version like I normally do. For those die-hard fans, you’ll find something here you like, but for me, I’ll just stick to my March into the Sea and Ephemeral records.