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    Mirrored 9 ( 2007 )
    Race: In / Atlas / Ddiamondd / Tonto / Leyendecker / Rainbow / Bad Trails / Primism / Snare Hangar / TIJ / Race : Out

    Rate Your Music classifies Battles 'Mirrored' as the following - math rock, avant-rock, post-rock, indie rock, experimental rock, art rock, space rock, progressive rock, instrumental rock. Imagine if the Scissor Sisters suddenly turned into a progressive rock band by hiring Yes bass-player Chris Squire to join them? The singer leaves. What’s left is a largely instrumental concern ditching rock convention for songs using the structure and ideas of dance music. You get yourself the drummer from metallers Helmet and three other indie-luminaries gradually force out the remaining members of the Scissor Sisters. Chris Squire decides to leave too. The remaining members are a band in name only with much to prove. Naming themselves Battles, they prepare their plan. Four musicians playing anything upto eight instruments at once and displaying a level of virtuosity un-dreamt of in alternative circles, almost frowned upon, in fact. A mischievous sense of fun is retained and the alien moon-race that we last heard on Joe Meek’s ‘I Hear A New World’ have inhabited the vocalist. He opens his mouth and this pinky/perky alien noise comes out like a cartoon vision. On stand-out track ‘Atlas’, these voices are heard in full effect whilst the drummer manages to conjure up one of the finest glam beats now known to mankind. Sounding like two drummers, he propels the song onwards whilst the bass player seemingly twists and turns in all directions. It’s a mighty feast and could well just be the future of music. Too often dance/rock hybrids consist of either a rock vocalist joining an existing dance act or a rock band with standard material remixing themselves by tacking on a few beeps and buzzes. Never before have I heard something so well integrated, a true fusion, yet retaining real instruments. It’s no wonder Warp Records, always on the search for innovation, signed up Battles.

    The opening 'Race' is a largely instrumental affair although with strange humming and chanting appearing here and there. This is the track that fans of Yes or King Crimson could approach, especially fans of the latter, I feel. Don't be put off by the odd whistling noises, chanting, etc. Music shouldn't be a study. Having chops yet also being silly is such a wonderful combination and I really don't know why more bands haven't done it before. There are so many highlights and highpoints on this LP. Album of the year? Well, we're not quite half-way through the year but I feel I can safely say this will be up there with the best of them. 'Snare Hangar' is two minutes of rhythms, guitars, abstract drumming that sounds like fellow Warp act Autechre, yet these are real drums played in real time! Doesn't even bear thinking about, the drummer must have tree-trunk arms. 'Rainbow' begins like a Joe Meek track yet soon explodes into sound as layer upon layer is built up. The drummer does his thrash metal thing, the guitars sound metallic and this is such an exhilarating, almighty fury of sound. Still, with the silly bits, like they are mooning at you half way through the track. It's excellent, it really is. What else? Well, I don't know. I'm fairly speechless yet also more excited by this album than I have been by any debut album for a long, long time. Critics have already been falling over themselves to praise this, because we all know it will only ever be a cult concern. Put Battles on the front of the newspapers I say, not Arctic Monkeys!

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    Readers Comments

    John, County Kildare john.j.doyle@nuim.ie
    2007 has been a fantastic year for PROPER music so far, and this is no exception. Now, if only I could get a few quid together to go on an insane music spending spree.... Thanks to my buddy in Anthropology for the listen to this one, a really, REALLY, fantastic band.

    Jayson jayson_colhoun@yahoo.co.uk
    Easily in the top two best albums of 2007. For my money it's a straight fight between this and In Rainbows. There were a lot of hyped bands and acts (M.I.A: Kala, Burial: Untrue) but these guys flew under the Radar and came out triumphant. 9 1/2 out of ten.

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    Glass Drop 8 ( 2011 )
    Africastle / Ice Cream [ft. Matias Aguayo] / Futura / Inchworm / Wall Street / My Machines [ft. Gary Numan] / Dominican Fade / Sweetie & Shag [ft. Kazu Makino] / Toddler / Rolls Bayce / White Electric / Sundome [ft. Yamantaka Eye]

    Singer Tyondai Braxton has left the band so Battles draw in a variety of guest-singers including Gary Numan. The drummer John Stanier remains, and as before with 'Mirrored', drives the majority of these songs with performances bordering on the sublime. You would think losing your singer would be a major blow and that also a band as different as Battles, who enjoyed one near novelty hit single in the UK, would find it incredibly hard to write and record a follow-up that could have anywhere near the same impact. Still, a mention again for John Stanier, it's like he's auditioning to replace Bill Bruford in progressive rock band King Crimson and you know, now Bill is enjoying his retirement, I cannot think of a better replacement? Anyway, the seemingly precise and mathematically correct complicated rock of Battles continues to impress with this, their second album. Long stretches of bendy and intricate instrumental work, occasional guest vocals here and there and songs very rarely lasting less than four minutes. The opening 'Africastle' is all shimmering guitar playing nothing and electronic bursts of melody, brief to accentuate, well, nothing much. Nothing much until the drums enter, clearly the lead instrument. Somebody once said you couldn't write songs or melodies on a drum kit or have drums as lead instrument. Well, clearly you can as easily as you can have a bass as lead instrument. Bands just need a little thought and imagination in order to sound different. Battles have that imagination.

    'Ice Cream' is the hit of the album, a song featuring on adverts and what not. It opens with musical theatre and grunting, then proceeds through quickly sang lyrics and quirky fairground keyboard melodies on speed. The lyrics and nonsense and glorious nonsense, fits them well. 'Futura' and 'Inchworm' provide ten minutes of complicated and seemingly built out of sand progressive rock instrumental music, apart from the drums, which are cementing everything together. For some reason, 'Inchworm' has sleigh-bells on it. 'Wall Street' is a speedy, psychedelic number - the audio sound of falling and rising numbers, it's true. How clever is this band? Then, Gary Numan is a perfect fit, the sound of machines rises throughout 'My Machines' and Gary always was a bit technical. It's a glorious moment and should rightly propel Gary back into some sort of limelight if only anybody would play this on the radio. Several tracks follow with the same formula until we reach the end with the strange rantings of Yamataka Eye and the seven minutes long 'Sundrome'. It's an exhausting listen, this album. It's too lengthy, but the invention is persistent, intimidating and fun enough for this album to earn a thumbs up overall. Well, we need more bands putting themselves out there, out where other bands fear to tread.

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    this page last updated 11/02/12

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