It starts with some of John Stanier’s (ex-Helmet) tasty snare percussion-- energetically fast and intriguing. Next, a guitar pick in on the same rhythm and some trippy whistling sounds enter the growing mix of odd sounds coming up through cracks and beats. A strange energy is now filling you brain with curiosity and anticipation, assuming you have an open mind and like artistic and progressive music. It’s like when a roller coaster intently rolls out away from the crowd and starts to lock onto chains, pulling you slowly skyward. Light melodies weave in and out with different guitars, instruments, and whimsical vocal stylings. The first song is called “Race:In”.
Wikipedia classifies Battles as an “American math rock band”. I call it “Drum-driven ripping euro-sounding-prog-rock”. This New York City band, on the Warp Records label, has just released its first full-length album, Mirrored . Joining Stanier is Dave Konopka on Guitar/Bass, Tyondai Braxton on Guitar/Keys/Vocals, and Ian Williams on Guitar/Keys.
I haven’t been this excited to go to Vintage Vinyl and buy something in a real long time. The first single, on Mirrored, “Atlas,” is the second song and indicative of the whole record, so buy it if you like it. You will be glad you did, as albums will soon cease to exist in these digital post-modern single-song downloading times. “Atlas” just rips --and makes you dance a personal funky chicken that does not care who is looking at you-- like you are crazy but they’re jealous of your freedom. The video is simple yet complex in its vision of the band in a mirrored room, flying through blackness encased in the jam. It is our first glimpse of Stanier’s drum set: aside from a high-hat, one lone cymbal, way high in the air, alone, and just in reach. It is fun to see him stretch out of his intense hunch over his sick-steady beats and hit the crash that looks beyond him. You have to see it to sense the visual entertainment.
Some people might get annoyed by some of the synthy vocals and clever sounds. There are flashes of XTC, Primus, King Crimson, Yes, & Frank Zappa all through this record as it swells and whips with controlled, artistic chaos. Battles threw away conventions and take us back to a 70’s type of vibe where an artist felt freer to experiment with sound and abstract song concepts, and that’s to be respected. However, Battles are not coming off like any retro 70’s trend thing. They are just using a lot of vintage equipment, and look at the CD cover or their video, they are using a LOT of equipment to make some thick music that will spin your head and keep you head rocking.
Take the test. Listen to “Atlas.” If you like it, support the artist and go buy a nice sounding CD while you can! For creative sounds and incredible beats, it is worth every freakin’ penny.