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Elephant Tree – Habits Award winner

Elephant Tree
Habits
by Dave Nowels at 15 April 2020, 6:17 PM

Hey, let's face it…..2020 has sucked. Real bad. With that said, I've been able to hear some really great new releases the past several weeks, and ELEPHANT TREE's release, “Habits” was definitely one I've been eagerly salivating about. ELEPHANT TREE have been playing as a band since 2013. The London band has evolved and developed since their fall 2014 release of “Theia” and it's magnificent self titled follow-up in 2016. Founding members Jack Townley (Vocals, Guitar) Peter Holland (Bass, Vocals) and Sam Hart (Drums) rounded out the band's sound during “Theia” with Riley MacIntyre joining the band and contributing sitar among production duties. But the word 'stagnant' doesn't seem to be in their vocabulary, and ELEPHANT TREE aren't content to just menial progression. They want to blow minds at every opportunity.

With the material rattling about their noggins for the self-titled album, the band pushed forward with more focus on vocal melodies, instrumentation and most notably, ditched the sitar, which they worried had become too gimmicky. This self-titled release garnered the band significant exposure, with important support gigs as well as a bunch of festival dates. This is around the time I first discovered the band, and have to admit that the band's self-titled album was on repeat for quite an extended time. It was also during this time that the band began to make some of their most significant growth as artists.

Second guitarist and synth player, John Slattery was added to the band during the tour supporting the new self-titled release, and with MacIntyre now focused on production, the band achieves tactical efficiency. I found the fact that MacIntyre has also produced Thurston Moore before particularly fascinating, and I see a lot of similarities to SONIC YOUTH in the tone and sound of the guitar here on “Habits”. That's a good thing, adding incredible 'noise rock' texture that blankets all the proceedings. New material again began to materialize, and the band took yet another different approach, to creating, writing and recording, ensuring this new album, “Habits” would differentiate itself from their previous releases.

Townley/Holland's vocals for me, recall early PINK FLOYD. Musically, there's elements of Jazz, Psych, Punk, the Laurel Canyon feel of Folk, and even a Pop melodic aspect. All blended together, it's presented with a heavy fuzzed-out bow on top. It's unique and special. The whole album is a highlight, with songs flowing together with the feel of a single take. Personal favorites included first single, “Sails” and “Wasted's”, with it's heavy, crushing assault from Holland and Hart while Townely and Slattery's guitars dance in and out of the debris. Also not to be missed here is the synth that strikes with pin point accuracy. Without question though, my favorite track is “Broken Nails” which wails like a funeral procession, before it crescendos dramatically with an almost cinematic flourish to close the album.

This is higher consciousness music, that evokes introspection. Progressive/Psych at it's best. Truthfully, I have to admit that at times it seems like the band frustratingly stops just short of completely launching into the stratosphere, but that's just a small detachment. I cannot wait to see this band live, as I fully expect it to be a cosmic journey. This is fucking art, man. It's intense, inspiring, spacey and substantive. Mission accomplished. “Habits” is a distinctive and ambitious addition to ELEPHANT TREE's discography to be sure, but it also retains the soothing resonance of familiarity. The album releases at the end of April and is destined to go down as one of the best releases of 2020. Very much recommended.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Wake.Repeat
2.  Sails
3. Faceless
4. Exit the Soul
5. The Fall Chorus
6. Bird
7. Wasted
8. Broken Nails
Lineup:
Jack Townley – Guitar, Vocal
Peter Holland – Bass, Vocal
Sam Hart - Drums
Riley MacIntyre – Producer, Extra Instrumentation
John Slattery – Synth, Guitar
Record Label: Holy Roar Records
     


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Edited 22 September 2020
 

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