Friday, March 29, 2013

Intronaut - Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones) (2013)

We all know it to be true, but we refuse to admit it openly. We are all music hypocrites. All of us. We say one thing, but we mean another. We say one band sucks, but another band that sounds exactly the same is awesome. And we say we want our favorite bands to stay exactly the same, then we complain that they are just making the same album over and over. Yes, AC/DC has made a career of it, and we love them for it. But what about the rest? Los Angeles based Intronaut are sure to receive the praise and wrath of many fans and music writers all over the world, as their new album ventures into new and admittedly acid laced territory. But this isn't the same band that brought us "Null" and "Void;" Time has passed and people need to evolve. After all, who wants to be told they have to play the same song over and over again for their entire career (again, see AC/DC)? But with the release of "Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones)" have made a leap that, while completely justified and well done, may leave people wondering what happened to get us here.

If the opening riffs on "Killing Birds With Stones" aren't enough to sell you on this recent output, I don't know what will. The well crafted guitar work, catchy and yet equally destructive, is the perfect baseline test for the album to come. An airy and raspy vocal performance becomes the counterpoint to that hard edged instrumental, with frontmen Sacha Dunable and Dave Timnick each contributing on a level that borders on seventies psychedelia. What makes the track truly special, however, is the contrast between the first and second movement. While the first focuses on distortion and groove heavy writing, the second is an exercise in post-rock melodies and the running bass lines of Joe Lester. There is an aant, artsy quality to the album that becomes clear in "The Welding," but not in an invasive way. The looping and winding guitar parts form a foundation early, one that is bolstered by the subtle, effects laden touches later on. The buildup that begins around the three minute mark is the perfect example of an evolution for the better. But the fact that it is merely a part of something much bigger is even more important, with a thunderous return to form coming right afterwards. It may be "Steps," though, that seals the deal. It's as if the band have found that tiny slice of land that sits perfectly between melody and weight, and they walk it with precision and purpose. In one minute you are stomping your foot to a thumping beat, and in the next you find your head swaying to an ethereal, almost haunting, melody. Lester is the conductor, bending and swaying the waveform with an ever present bass line.

But this isn't all LSD induced sunshine. The more bombastic pulse of "A Sight For Sore Eyes" is sure to find a home in your rotation, even if it is only used sparingly. If your mind has managed to black out and forget the percussion contributions thus far, the work of Danny Walker shines brightest here, with fill after fill completely a packed house of a mix. The outro finds you bombarded from all sides with distorted guitars, bass, drums, and a vocal that somehow stays clean. The first single from the album, "Milk Leg," is far more complex than the name seems to indicate. Once again walking the straight and narrow, the vocals take the seventies vibe to an entirely new level. It's as if your room has filled with smoke, and you are left sitting amongst a cloud of purple vapors. Depending on your perspective, the track is either an overwhelming victory or a source of confusion. For most, the period surrounding the five minute mark, with its smoothest of bass lines and hazy guitar chords, could become a relaxation go-to track. Furthered by the intro to "Harmonomicon," once again thanks to Lester and his deft bass work, it is easy to find yourself waiting for that first big punch. If there is any complaint to be had in this section of the album, it would be for lack of a major burst of energy. For better or worse, it creates a mood and atmosphere that would be hard to build upon with any other structure. There is plenty to like here, however, with the band displaying not only a great sense for the melodic, but for their keen songwriting senses. Even the short Weather Channel-esque ditty that flows at the end is worth a million repeat listens based on musicianship alone.

Those who spent an album's worth of time waiting for the next big splash, look no further than the aptly titled "Eventual." You can practically feel it coming, riding the wave of power through the opening riff and drum beat. Leaving more towards their sludgier roots, the vocals even see a pick me up, incorporating a touch of raw strength. It is the latter half of the track that seems to hit home more, though, combining that new found melodic sensibility with a slightly blunt wave of distortion. As the track fades out, it is left with a light set of clean guitars, one that sets the table perfectly for the airy, and altogether mind altering "Blood From A Stone." This is a detour from the planned road trip, a haunting piece of work that will be heralded or derided by fans and critics alike. At a mere three minutes, it is the baby of the album in terms of track length, and an orphan in terms of style. Its success is measured by your attachment to it, something that I admit is growing with each listen. Conversely, the big brother of the album follows closely behind, with a nearly nine minute finale in the form of "The Way Down." Boasting some of the heavier, yet under control, instrumental work on the album, you get a little piece of everything, in the proverbial "have your cake..." kind of way. And for whatever reason, the noise that fills out the last three minutes seems almost fitting.

I find it hard not to make a comparison here, one that seems logical in my mind, but less so in print. Regardless, the parallels between this release from Intronaut and last years Baroness double album seem to fit together. Baroness stepped away from their typical output, and released an album that may criticized as being too mellow, or even too complacent. In the same way, "Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones)" is a step away from what we've come to expect from Intronaut, and may come under the same fire. But much like "Yellow & Green," there is so much to life about this new direction that it would seem petty and silly to degrade what they've done based solely on it being different. The focus on melody is a welcomed one, and executed to a near flawless level. If you spent the entire run time waiting for a massive breakdown or a wild solo, you are going to be slightly confused come the end. But you'll listen again. And again. And you'll like it each and every time.


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