Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Battles - Mirrored

Remember when you were a kid and for the first time you went to Six flags, Disney Land, Universal Studios, or what have you. For the next few days you couldn't stop talking about HOW COOL it was, gushing about how it felt to be whipped around by a big metal contraption until you lose your shit and your adrenaline takes over. The ride stops and you step off grinning like an idiot.

Fun is the word, Battles Mirrored(2007) is fun, its a thrill, its an effect. Its 4 men in room with a few tons of electronics, mad scientists hammering away at this wondrous contraption, a sonic playground for your head. It's a century old promise finally fulfilled, a complete symbiosis of rock and electronics. Its pure bliss.

None of the lyrics are readily understood, and none need be, there's no narrative to tell, no emotion to convey, just a spectacle to behold. It's as close to avant-garde as anything I've ever heard. It's also Battles' first full length album.

It does owe a particular debt to the math rock tradition with its emphasis on angular melodies, electronic loops, odd time signatures, and lyrical ambiguity. Most importantly to math rock veterans Don Caballero.

In a move similar to the break of At the Drive In and the rise of the Mars Volta. Guitarist Ian Williams broke with Don Cab in 2000, and by taking on a more aggresively progressive and expiremental sound with Battles won wider appeal. The only album in the math rock catagory coming close to its sheer musical integrity is Don Cab's 2006 release World Class Listening Problem, that in a decade full to the brim with great math releases.

Mirrored's greatest success and largest leap from the genre is its grasp of the electronic. Keyboards are used to great effect, guitars processed, tweeked, and tapped to produce intresting new tones, and vocals bent to absurd and comic pitches. When going at 150 beats per minute its complete sensory overload, theres so much you've missed, you've no choice but to get back on and ride again. Conscious of this, mirrored is bookended. The albums opening and closing tracks Race In and Race Out respectively welcome you to show, and make a curtain call. A thoughtful and clever touch.

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