on 6 July 2008
This is Battles' 1st album proceeding a couple of E.P.s and all I can say is it's absolutely nutss! I've read quite a lot about Mirrored and everyone has a different opinion of what kind of music it is or where it should be pidgeonholed. I love it when music critics get confused!
Some people are classing it as `post rock' which would place them alongside bands like Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed. Way off.
Some people have christened it dance music. Eh? Nowhere close.
Some view Mirrored as a `math rock' album. Does anyone know what `Math Rock' is anyway?
Most stick it in the prog rock category, which is a lot closer than the others but still not quite there.
Whatever the opinion of what genre they belong all the professional reviews I've read are gushing over this album. However good it is I don't think it warrants quite so much praise; here's why.
Battles are one of those bands that genuinely defy categorisation and cannot be described under a general term. It's complex fairly cerebral music and incredibly hard to wrap your brain around on the first listen. Battles are drums, guitars, bass, vocals and keyboards; pretty standard rock group elements but what is produced is nothing like you've heard before.
The music is based around very short riffs and loops strung together with fills, runs and bridges many with awkward timings and odd rhythms. It's quite robotic and lacking in soul and the electronic elements; keyboards, samples, and effects emphasise this. The vocals are equally abstract; whistling, bizarre high pitched effects and odd chanting. It's weird stuff, and when all these elements are described it sounds really off putting. Yet it's a strangely compelling listen. The first listen is one of shock and awe; the quality of the musicianship; the lack of any traditional structure or melody. Yet it's these qualities that bring you back, it's kind of like slowing down for a car crash; you don't want to, it's wrong, but some morbid curiosity makes you go through with it.
After repeated listens it is apparrent that Mirrored does contain some melody, particularly in `Race : In', `Atlas' and `Tonto', and you'll just keep coming back for more. Mirrored is far too inaccessable and esoteric for Battles to get big but I wouldn't be surprised if they gained themselves quite the cult following.
Go on, take a chance and buy some brand new music that sounds like nothing you have heard and probably never will again, what big loss could it be? Whether you'll enjoy it is another matter...
One of the words that you might use when trying to recommend Battles, is "if". IF you are prepared to fall in love with vocals that are swarmed with helium, IF you are prepared to listen to an album an excessive amount of times to let it grow on you, IF you want to know about the future of music, listen to and love Battles.
Math Rock, Post Rock, whatever. This is weird, but there is a very large chance that you will worship this record for the next few years. It could become one of those manifesto's for bands that want to cause a stir in the music industry with inventive, out of control with originality, music.
But what did you expect? With titles like 'Ddiamondd' and 'Leyendecker', you were hardly going to get an album that you could listen and relax to with a cup of coffee at 10 in the evening, were you?
The pure aim of Battle's debut album is to make you think outside of the box. Don't just hear it, think about what you are hearing, think about the exceedingly large amount of work that went into 'Mirrored', imagine making this record. When you do that, you're likely to have got a connection with it, and then just maybe, you will see through everything that could possibly put you off ever listening to it again.
Someone said about 'Mirrored', that it was like a video game, a video game that you are winning! It truly does feel like that, especially in moments like 'Tonto', which has the production levels of a Panda Bear song, and the feel of it gradually grows on you throughout. During the song, you feel like you could be in the 30th century, driving a flying car at unbelievable speeds, feeling like you're in a race and feeling like you're winning.
It's gently done, but 'Mirrored' is like a form of hypnosis. It messes with your head in ways that you will accept it to do but there is no chance whatsoever that this record will have no effect on you, good or bad. This wouldn't happen but if everybody in the world listened to 'Mirrored', there wouldn't be another album that could divide opinions as much. It's similar to nothing. It's inventive, and may well go down as one of the outstanding records of the 21st century, or not. It'll be a close one.
Maybe I haven't got any evidence for what I've stated yet, so I'll give some examples. 'Rainbow' is an-almost instrumental that sounds like 1000 voices shouting at you, it's extraordinary, how any of the sounds you are hearing could have been intentional, rehearsed, actually written down originally, is unbelievable. It sums up the record in a nutshell, you are never sure of what you are hearing, and you may never decide whether you like it or not. The vocals that end the song sound similar to TV On The Radio, passion, proudness, insanity.
'Atlas' is the track that most people will be talking about though. This is where we have the helium vocals, the vocals that grow on you like a beanstalk, until your opinion of it couldn't be more positive. It's a 21st century song, something that nobody would have gotten away with at any other time. Maybe we can all thank Radiohead's 'Kid A' for braving the edge and going one step further, the step that we all wanted music to go to. The vocals don't just become lovable, the drums are commanding, they tighten a grip on your head and keep you listening. 2 and a half minutes in, everything's completely bonkers and surely that's how Battles like it. It becomes vast, one of the most extraordinary things you may hear in your lifetime so far and by the time you reach the closer 'Race:Out' you'll either be left emotionless or in hysterical joy.
Without doubt, something that will take a lot to get used to.
Without doubt, something that will control thousands of peoples music tastes for the next 10 years.
on 27 April 2008
This is music for itchy feet and itchy brains. It is driven by a relentless krautrockesque riddim. This is clever and precise music and the `math-rock' tag fits with the album's hypnotic feel drawing the listener in as he or she (`he' in my case, forsooth) ponders the `is it rock or is it electronica or is it, Good Lord, both?' question. The vocals are effect heavy and are used, effectively, as an extra layer of instrumentation over quiet-loud-quiet playing that remindeth this punter of noisy and provocative Scottish noise provocateurs Mogwai. File under `Challenging' but cross-reference under `Uplifting' and `Big'. This is a stimulating group. This is a stimulating group.
on 8 February 2008
Well, one of them. The main competition being Panda Bear, the National and Sir Richard Bishop. I just wanted to counterbalance the reviews from poor souls who seem to think that "pretentious" is a valid criticism of anything. This is very accessible, polished and energetic math-rock. They have immediately placed themselves at (or near) the top of the genre with an album full of solid compositions, driving rhythms and spacey effects. Particularly impressive is their ability to produce well-structured 7+ minute songs that do not rely on empty space and repetition (Atlas, Tonto and Tij). This is an essential album.
on 22 June 2008
Don't be fooled by the lack of lyrics, or superficial art/math/post-rock tendencies - this is actually great pop music. Those that have tried to classify this as prog are also short of the mark; in my opinion this record sits more comfortably in the mainstream, it is really quite conventional and all the better for it.
Like many other commentators here, I initially thought I'd have to grin and bear this album BUT was very pleasantly surprised to find myself instantly warming to its assorted noodlings.
There's nothing really new here and it won't change the world BUT it is alot of fun, and is a superb antidote to the grind of London's rush-hour traffic. Recommended.