A calming, relaxing, mind-clearing stroll through the park. That’s what goes best with Columbus band Friends With Elephants’ debut EP Time. Tender, vulnerable music that curves much like a forested trail. One minute you’re stuck in a sandwich of trees, very aware of your thoughts. The next moment you’re taking a turn, but then a wide river opens up from under you. Albeit not a lengthy one, Time will still take your ears to those serene spots that you gravitate toward to get some time and space apart from the world.
An entity that you can’t control – and also one that creates space – is time. Time is a major theme on the EP, both in the objective and subjective matter. A little bit ago, I watched a documentary about famous French filmmaker Agnes Varda. Varda said that being able to define the objective and subjective time in your life is supplemental to defining your happiness. I think this applies to Time as well, in both the songs’ length and also their lyrical content. That is to say, there is plenty of time to get into your thoughts on a Friends With Elephants track. However, there is also the added element of vocalist and guitarist Ethan Benton’s poetic words, which wind and curve as much as the texture of the music.
Compared to the slew of singles that came out before the rollout for Time began, Friends With Elephants is certainly taking the next step to refine its sound with this EP. Take a track like the intro “Slow Time” for example. Before we hear Benton’s voice, there is a sprinkle of glitzy keys, a lonely-sounding guitar, and a quick string accompaniment soaring into the word, “destiny.” There’s a ton of mystery and intrigue packed into the first 30 seconds of “Slow Time.” Enough to entice you to excitedly open the envelope on the remaining four songs.
The slow swing of Time is enough to put you in a trance, with the deliberate, unnoticeable build of the tracks setting a most tranquil image in your mind. Time is dreamy in every musical aspect possible – from the words that fly by like birds over a bright blue sky to the serene percussive elements. The layering of the eclectic mix of pleasant noises that are sprinkled all throughout Time are so beautifully done. In a way that doesn’t steal the show or take away from the steady drumming, shimmering, bluesy guitar, or mindful, twinkling keys of tracks like “Slow Time” and “The Future,” just to name a few.
No matter their slightly varying textures, all of these songs have to do with time. Apt title. Whether it’s wishing time would speed up or slow down, desiring to know what it holds for you in the future, or wanting to go back in time, it’s pretty clear what topic is being dissected here. Let’s look at “Rewind,” the third and longest track on Time. It takes up the most time, but it also has the most prominent affixation of wanting to turn back the clock on a particular love affair that went sour. Halfway through the track Benton pleads, “Turn back the time, undue the damage, and settle my mind.” That’s exactly what this EP hopes to do to its listeners.
Time is something that we long to have control over, knowing that it moves objectively but produces subjective effects. Not only is Time very pleasant, easy-listening, yet intricately layered music, but it’s also a strong dissertation on humanity’s ever-grappling relationship with the subject of the EP’s title.