The members of Battles definitely have impressive resumes when it comes to their former and current musical endeavors. Everyone knows John Stanier from his days in Helmet and his recent work in Tomahawk. Ian Williams is a guitar wizard who spent many years with Don Caballero. Dave Konopka played in the under-appreciated Lynx. And Tyondai Braxton is the son of jazz musician Anthony Braxton and has released solo recordings as well as worked with some notable artists - John Zorn and Prefuse 73 among others. Rather impressive and then you throw them together and ask them to make music. The result can best described as a mish-mash of experimental, electronic, indie rock.
The most notable difference between Mirrored and the bands two previous EPs is the addition of vocals to the music. While before they were an instrumentally driven band, the addition of vocals has taken the band to a whole new level. But, being a band of experimentation, Battles do not make use of typical vocals melodies in their work. Rather, the vocals provided by Braxton are digitally altered, most of the time sounding like a robot thats been sucking on helium.
The album gets moving with Race : In. The song builds up with progressing drums, very Fugazi-esque guitars, and meandering basslines. As the song develops, more instrumentation is added by way of electronic elements and keyboards. You may not hear it on the first few listens, but there is a jazz influence in its structure. Lacking are traditional instruments of the genre: horns, piano, etc Atlas follows and features those bizarre, altered vocals mentioned above. The vocals are partnered with driving rhythms supplied by Stanier and Konopka, quirky synths, and Braxton and Williams diverse guitar sounds: finger tapping, energetic grooves, and angular, swooping melodies.
Tonto again highlights the guitar skills of Braxton and Williams over the course of its near eight-minutes, and it reminds me a bit of Hella. Leyendecker prominently features programmed beats, interweaving guitars, and tweaked R&B-inspired vocal harmonies. Prismism and Snare Hangar are fairly short and rather under-developed. They could have used more work. TIJ is another long-running progressive math rock tune with some stellar drumming and guitar noodling. Race : Out wraps things up rather nicely, a nice compliment to the fashion in which the album opened.
Mirrored, and Battles for that matter, is something that you are either going to love or hate. I cant really see there being a lukewarm feeling toward the music put forth on Mirrored. This is definitely one of the more unique and experimental indie/math rock releases of 2007 and I look forward to what they deliver in 2008.
7.5 / 10
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