Few things beat big sounds to me. An artist’s ability to fill your ears with a wall of sound gives the music a unique presence that’s wholly its own. All music has some kind of presence of course, but you can’t ignore it if it’s swallowing you whole. It’s the kind of music that can make you introspective and incapable of thinking about anything else apart from what you’re listening to. Many bands have done it before, but you can’t just turn your amps to 11 and think you’re done. Oh no, you have to do far more than that if you really want to live rent free in your audience.
That’s where Habits, the newest from spacey stoner rock Elephant Tree, comes in. Elephant Tree decided to really grow and bloom into something very mature and serious. Previous releases, 2016’s Elephant Tree and 2014’s Theia, were big and ballsy stoner rock albums. It was all about fuzzy guitars and bass lines that could take down a building. Definitely sweet slow and low grooves, but previous releases were missing that little extra piece to turn into the wall of sound. Habits showcases the band achieving that little extra something.
Habits doesn’t completely abandon bands roots, but it does very seriously modify the approach. Whereas previous releases were very much stoner doom, there is combination that leaves the narrow stoner path behind. I sensed hints of Torche, King Buffalo, and shoegaze on Habits. There are big fuzzy riffs on here galore, but there is an amount of introspection and spaciness that evens it out to becoming something all its own. It’s big riffs, it’s psychedelia, it’s a heavy amount of loud and processed guitars, and it’s an absolutely brilliant move for the band.
“Sails” is the perfect example of this sound. A big fuzz riff drones with a driving drum beat combines with some atmospheric sound that puts it in a specific space. You can sense some dimension with the sound, especially when the bass is giving you a nice melodic floor to build on. The bass really fills out the track, and you wouldn’t have that full richness without it. But what seals the deal are the lyrics. They pass you by in short phrases that describe specific thoughts rather than telling a story or expressing an idea. Reading the lyrics helps put the thoughts in context. It’s like the narrator of the song expressing the thoughts they’re having while something else is going on. That’s the ultimate in introspective songwriting, and it’s presented in the perfect package.
The album follows in a similar fashion. The connective tissue throughout Habits is that ability for each song to seem so inward facing. The ideas and sounds expressed give you that ability to connect. Individual thought connect with music that expresses a feeling rather than any specific emotion, almost like it’s the background music for the thought-scene expressed by each song’s narrator. Habits could be set up to be the “Eureka!” moment every band needs to have at some point.
It’s obvious to state that I am truly impressed by the band’s new turn. It’s a bold move not taken lightly, but it’s an important thing artists need to do. You need to experiment with your sound and find your true voice. Some artists find themselves drawn to a particular sound goal. Others prefer to find their own unique place. Elephant Tree has done that with Habits.
Habits is available now via Holy Roar Records.