Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Battles, Mirrored

Battles first full length CD “Mirrored” doesn’t fit comfortably in any musical category and I’m guessing it won’t appeal to everyone’s tastes.  The first temptation is to call battlesit post-rock but Battles show no interest whatsover in the quiet-loud, ebb and flow dynamic that makes most post-rock groups sound like different instrumental takes on the same basic musical idea.  They might be called math rock but their music doesn’t stress dissonance.  The prominence of drummer John Stanier in Battles might lead to a categorization as some kind of metal variant based on his former membership in Helmut and Tomahawk but Battles doesn’t remotely sound like metal.  So, what is it?  I don’t know, but I like it a lot.

In addition to Stanier, Battles includes Dave Konopka (guitar and bass), Tyondai Braxton (guitar, keyboards and voice) and Ian Williams (guitar and keyboards).  Their music is primarily instrumental, Braxton’s voice is usually used as a processed instrument rather than as a singer of songs.  In fact, there are no songs on Mirrored in the traditional verse-chorus sense.  The music is fundamentally about rhythm, meter and pulse, with a lesser emphasis on tempo, rather than on the melody and harmony that drives song-based music.  Rhythm, meter and pulse based music can often be dissonant and noisy either because the musicians are explicitly rejecting melody as part of their emphasis on beat or because they just aren’t very good at melody and harmony.  Battles takes another approach by deftly using melody captured in riff-based segments as a rhythmic device which is part of what makes them sound so unique.  The result is rhythm oriented music that never sounds non-melodic.  It’s a neat trick and Battles pulls it off very well.

“Mirrored” is well recorded and sounds very good on a good sound system.  Stanier’s drums often thunder as on “Leyandecker” and standout track “Atlas”.  The music is also rich in layered guitar and keyboard effects which are clearly articulated and placed in the mix.  On the whole, this type of music demands very precise playing and recording and Battles are up to the task on both accounts.

So, probably not for everyone then, but if you like more challenging and attention demanding music played with rock and electronic instrumentation, if you respond especially well to rhythm, meter and pulse, or if you would like to open your ears and try a different kind of music that isn’t offputting by being noisy and dissonant, then “Mirrored” is strongly recommended.


08/09/2007 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews

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