Wednesday, August 15, 2007

People Will Be People

Battles – Mirrored

Imagine all the craziness of Dillinger Escape Plan, Don Caballero and free jazz and rhythm unfriendly hardcore in general combined with the mathematical esoterica of Meshuggah and shorn of any genre trappings and you'll be partway to conceiving of what Battles sound like. Heavily processed drums, guitars and vocals are accompanied by artificial synth noises culled from pop, R&B and less thinly disguised electronica, creating an almost completely abstract musical landscape, devoid of any kind of emotional or thematic grounding. Then they're arranged into mind melting rhythmic arrangements that are at least as insane as anything Meshuggah have ever produced while still remaining catchy and even danceable.

There are a few familiar names in the band's lineup. Guitarist Ian Williams used to be in Don Caballero, while the drummer is none other than John Stanier, most famous for being in Helmet at one time but whose special place in my heart comes from his work with Tomahawk.

Battles' peculiar warping of rhythm is an interesting and original one. As difficult as some of their songs are to follow a bit of close attention will reveal that most of them are composed in plain old 4/4 or 6/8, and their complexity comes from the inventive and unconventional application of syncopation and phrasing, an approach that I've never heard the likes of before and which is ingeniously executed by the band.

The first four tracks on the album are straight up classics which will have you scratching your head wondering what's going on at the same time as your foot is tapping to the infectious beat. Later on the album drags a little as the melodic hooks become more infrequent and the music sails further out into the realm of the completely abstract. The wonky math rock masturbation stays but they leave out the exuberant joy that manages to shine through the heavy, formal production on the first few tracks. For their originality and compositional talent alone this album is worth a listen, but don't feel too bad if you stop after a couple of songs.

Here's 'Atlas', the most approachable track on the album by a large degree:

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