Pelican: Iceland’s Prog-Pop Pioneers, The Anthology

11th September 2015

Review: Iceland’s Prog-Pop Pioneers: The Anthology

Label: RPM

The band is advertised as a prog crossover act by RPM and that’s exactly what they are. On the band’s first album, Uppteknir (meaning ‘busy’ or ‘opened’), released in 1974 and featuring original compositions apart a cover of a traditionally Icelandic ditty, there’s pop elements in here plus some psychedelia while the prog instrumentation and instrumental tracks add much needed weight and gravitas to the album. The lighter work tends to emerge when a vocal is inserted into a track. Otherwise there is a general Canterbury style to much of the instrumental work of Pelican and will be enjoyed by any prog fan who is interested in this sub-genre.

Moving to the second album within this 2CD set, Litil Fluga (literally ‘Little Fly’), released in 1975, took almost four times as long to record than their debut. the style changed somewhat, producing an oft West Coast style with smooth, gentle yet complex harmonies along with more R&B rocking sorties but also the trademark prog flavourings.

In the end, Pelican did a stupid thing. They listened to the suits. The executives looked at the band’s lead vocalist and founder, Pétur Kristjánsson, and told the rest of the band to get rid of him. The suits didn’t like his voice and thought that he was holding the band back. So the rest of the group did what they were told. Bad move. The public happened to love Pétur and saw him as the soul of the band. A new lead singer was drafted in but subsequent gigs were poorly attended.

The new lead vocalist (wisely) fled leaving the original band to twiddle their thumbs. Despite promised of soundtrack work the group soon fizzled out. A blazing two year career produced these two albums that might not offer hard core prog but does provide enough elements to give the prog fan a rewarding and gentle listening.