This Montreal quintet (and occasional septet) impresses with a wide array of instruments, including mandolin and French horn. When these are added to the typical spread of post-rock instrumentation (guitar, bass, and drums) as well as its expanded array (glockenspiel, violin, electronics), the results are more like the work of a small orchestra than a large band. Le Pélican Noir doesn’t refer to itself as exclusively post-rock, which is accurate; but the mini-LP does bear a post-rock title; the English translation is Silence stretched over our heads like a storm pending. The cheerful mood and bell-inflected tones are reminiscent of Bell Orchestre, another Montreal band. The spirit is uplifted while listening; perhaps there’s something in the water that allows such cheer.
The bells and swells of opener “Kirschen Elektrische” lead to a calliope of sounds. A waltz tempo lends a sweet patina. This isn’t typical music, but neither is it foreign; there’s enough familiarity to be comforting, and enough freshness to be invigorating. The ensemble keeps it fresh by varying the tempos and timbres throughout the album, a luxury afforded by the wealth of instruments available. “Fafrot Skies: part_I” bleeds the intrigue of a black-and-white noir, while “part_II” slows the process considerably, relying more on the violin for mood. The only thing missing is the rain, but for once it’s nice not to hear the rain; a convincing band can imply weather through timbre, which is what Le Pélican Noir accomplishes here.
The band even has a potential single on its hands with “…et les arbes deserteront les champs” (“…and the trees will desert the fields”), a sprightly number that at 4:18 has the potential to take off to a larger audience. The guitar may set the melody, but the strings take it to another level. It may have elements of pop, but it’s not pop; it’s something far more interesting, with a breakdown that sounds like air being let out of a balloon. As for that title track, it’s only a minute long, so no hits there!
Le Pélican Noir is one of the more promising bands to emerge from a busy Montreal scene. A winter tour should help to establish its reputation. Well done, black pelican! (Richard Allen)