Battles – Mirrored

26 02 2008

Right, so, for English, I had to write an album review, guess what I did. Yup. I reviewed Battles’ Mirrored. Look below.

Math-Rock. At first mention doesn’t sound that interesting and sounds even less like it’ll become the new musical genre of the moment. In all honesty, it probably won’t, not because it’s bad, but because most people certainly won’t get the hang of it. It’s basically rock music with strange time signatures. While most songs have a simple 4/4 signature, some of math-rock’s best known bands have signatures placed all over the place, luckily, this doesn’t make the songs sound out of time or plainly a complete mess. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all math-rock bands have coming to them are their time signatures, but it is the main point that has backed math-rock since the beginning. But alas, I digress.

One of the most popular “math-rock” bands of the moment are New York’s Battles, a collection of four musicians who all previously played in other bands. Unlike the other, more popular math-rock bands Foals, who have a more pop-minded approach to their music, Battles are more skilled, intricate, and abstract. Even the singles “Atlas” and “Tonto” are seven-minute long epic jams of slow progression mixed with skilled guitar picking, lots of snare drums, and vocals with pretty much all of their emotion removed through vocoders and synthesisers, and may I point out, these are just the SINGLES. While not a lot on their debut album “Mirrored” reaches those highs of delightful abstract jams, fans of the singles will surely find much to enjoy here.

The album is book-ended with “Race: In” and “Race: Out”, simple descriptions of the band if ever there were any. Anything you can expect from any given Battles song, scrunched into powerful four minute chunks, unfortunately for the closer this doesn’t work so well because, as the closing song on the album, leaves the whole thing with a bit of an anti-climax. “Diamond” and “Layendecker” are both short tracks showcasing the band’s individual traits. The former featuring an odd vocal line in tune with the guitar picking, the latter a snare-drum fest that could easily be mistaken for some weird obscure remix of a Britney Spears song.

Things really start to pick up in the middle of the album though, after “Tonto” eventually trails away into our memories and “Layendecker” reminds us that Battles are weird and if you have a problem deal with it thank you very much, the sprawling epic that is “Rainbow” comes in and blows the album apart. Starting with many loud riffs progressing into slow bridges with near-melodies, before going through both again and finally a loud call to arms from singer Tyondai Braxton, and when the call ends, so does the song, making it feel like the shortest eight and a half minute song you ever heard.

Things slow down a bit on “Bad Trails”, which feature probably the only recognisable lyrics on the whole album, and after the simple interludes which follow, the album finally reaches to a close with the slow-burner “Tij” and “Race: Out” which as mentioned before unfortunately leaves the album with an anti-climax.

This definitely isn’t an album for everyone, but the songs on offer here show that Battles know their stuff and have huge amounts of talent, which will work well for them in the rest of their hopefully long careers as musicians.

8/10

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