Rantings, reviews and lists from a person who structures half his life around obsessing over music.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Battles - Mirrored (2007)

4.0 ★/8.0 - 8.9

When trying to describe Battles, I've been driven towards all sorts of interesting analogies I thought I'd never in my life be able to use. A high speed scooter joyride through an industrial nuclear power plant. Alvin and the chipmunks trapped in a strobe-lit high-tech laboratory with King Crimson's Discipline playing on repeat. A carnival freakshow goes post rock. Transformers. Glitch rock. Saturday morning cartoons with steroids. These descriptions alone are going to get a lot of people giving the album a listen, but are they enough to establish Mirrored as album of the year? No, even though everyone will undoubtedly cite it's uniqueness as an attraction point. The first song they'll let all their friends listen to is the alien-like single, "Atlas" where Marilyn Manson style industrial filth is married to a club friendly beat, circus music guitars and the vocal stylings of hundreds of hardworking underground dwarves. Or they might point to the first half of "Rainbows," a teetering prog-rock implosion waiting to happen Animaniacs style - hammer bonks and goofy cartoon chases through rabbit holes and winding tunnels. These are spectacular songs, but what makes Mirrored one of the best albums of 2007, is when you can sense that the band is doing so much more than novelty. It's revolutionary. They're not just messing around; the constructs of this music is a complex fusion of man and machine and the end product is serious driving rock. The impenetrable King Crimson influenced jam sessions are invigorating enough, but when the band is also tinkering and experimenting with computers and loops as if they were simply another instrument, the process is refreshing in ways that haven't been done by any rock band yet. "Tonto" has a somber progression that's driven by a restless guitar line and cpu induced voices that resemble wild forest animals. "Bad Trails" is a tense tribal soundscape cluttered with dense digital effects and "Tij" takes off from samples of wheezes and heaves into a sinister slice of chaos with ricochet guitars and kinetic keyboards.

The majority of people who go into Battles unprepared could very well reduce them to the kind of thing you let your friends listen to almost as a joke. When I heard the head scratching "Ddiamondd," composed of whistles, techno breakdowns, and Mickey Mouse on speed, I thought the same thing. But it would be one of this decade's greatest tragedies if that's all Mirrored was known for. Sit through the off-kilter oddities and you'll find at the end of the day that Battles are not fucking around. You'll have your ass kicked in every direction at once and then served to you on a platter. And you'll see that this band has delivered the future of rock music, whether or not we're able to comprehend it as such.

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