Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Battles have been labelled a Math Rock band, basically meaning their music is based round intricate time signatures and off set, weird sounding riffs. I hate using genres but to be fair Battles do follow this mindset of music quite closely. Formed in New York and mildly famous for having the drummer from Hexstatic their recently released album 'Mirrored' is very hypnotic, prog, instrumental LP, some of it good, some of it just OK. Their best songs usually involve treated vocals by Tyondai Braxton, making a sound somewhere between what can only be described as an Alien and a baby, they sound cool tho and sit well with the pounding drums, crunchy guitars and occasional flicker of keyboard/synth. The song I continue to come back to and is probably the most immediate track on the album is 'Atlas':
I've just read an interview with them in Plan B magazine where they explain how they write their songs:
“When we write songs, we have these charts on the wall, big pieces of easel paper, and we take a magic marker and write down names for the sections,” says Battles guitarist and keyboard player Ian Williams.
“Instead of it being traditional notation, we write down words to describe the parts, so ‘Tij’ starts with – what was the first thing?
Drummer John Stanier booms out, “‘Wooh!’”
Hearing them explain their song writing process makes a lot of sense. Mirrored is full of texture and subtle changes, sometimes they stick on an idea for a whole song, sometimes they move all over the place, their songs are quite full on but not too self indulgent. I think my favourite thing about the album is the way the guitars work together and against each other; I seem to remember someone describing it as a 'call and response' style, which is definitely on the money. Check out Race:Out and Snare Hanger and you'll understand exactly what I'm banging on about.
I think my only criticism of this album is the few songs which have no treated vocals just sound a but wacky, rather than proggy and interesting. 'Ddiamondd', is a perfect example of this; it doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the album especially when you compare it with the 5th song 'Leyendecker' which reverts back to the alienesque vocals, creepy little keyboards and precision drumming. I think they are their best when the vocals are another instrument rather than a proper vocal.
Check out Atlas, Leyendecker, Race:In and Race:Out as a way into this album.