18 March 2013
by Tom Doyle
Let me tell you a little story. I was heading home from work the other week on the tube, it had been a long day and the London winter was persisting in the way London winters tend to. As I sank into my seat on the Northern Line my headphones filled with the sound of Intronaut’s fourth full length, Habitual Levitations. As the sound of eight minute opener, ‘Killing Birds With Stones’, washed over me and it’s subtle, sumptuous groove soothed my weary mind I couldn’t help but be reminded of how heroin addicts describe their hits, like a warm cocoon enveloping you. Intronaut are a band possessed of a skag-like power to trance you away from your present reality, and FUCK, it is wonderful.
Fans of the band will already be familiar with their modus operandi, but the most notable thing on this record is the warmth of the tone that the Los Angelean quartet find throughout. There is crunch here but it is not crushing, rather it feels benevolent and monolithic, beautifully written and entirely luxuriant. You are allowed to stretch out in tracks that frequently clock in at six minutes and above, but never feel like they outstay their welcome and utilise a genuinely broad musical palette encompassing everything from progressive metal to undeniably engaging jazz-influenced interludes. That penchant for jazz is spearheaded most obviously by bassist Joe Lester, who puts in an exceptional performance throughout the record. ‘Harmonomicon’ in particular is demonstrative of a fluidity of musicianship that is a pleasure to behold.
There’s light and shade in spades here, and even better a real appreciation of what it takes to write songs in the longform style that the band so obviously prefer. Penultimate track ‘Blood From a Stone’ is deftly realised and twinkles with both spacey guitar lines and ethereal vocals and is immediately followed by slow building but groove-laden closer ‘The Way Down’ in a one two punch which neatly demonstrates the sonic juxtapositions Intronaut are capable of. Sure, there is an enormous amount of complexity in much of what is going on here, but you will also find yourself surreptitiously nodding your head with the infectious, rhythmic riffing that loiters around every corner and makes this a listen that is not just confined to being praised by head, but that can find a good deal to recommend it to the heart as well.
I may have nearly nodded off to Habitual Levitations on my tube journey home, but that is no insult to it. Rather, it is testament to the hypnotic state its labyrinthine structure is capable of inducing. Fans of post-rock and stonery doom will find plenty to enjoy here but in truth Intronaut continue to be a pretty unique proposition offering a compelling fusion of sounds which brew together to produce something utterly mesmeric and truly fantastic. Highly recommended (especially if you’ve had a long day).
Sounds Like: Mastodon, Pelican, The Ocean
Standout Tracks: Harmonomicon, Killing Birds With Stones