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Battles - Mirrored CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

3.81 | 126 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars This album, and in particular the single 'Atlas', have been hugely hyped by the elite music press in the UK, and the electronic press in particular. Is it worthy of the hype? Well, two yesses and a no.

First, the yes. With this album BATTLES makes math-rock accessible to the ordinary punter. It doesn't take a huge intellect to tap your feet, and you're forced to tap not only your feet but any available appendage at the irrepressible music on this album. Can't say I've ever been tempted to dance to math-rock before. Rather than being yet another serious, inaccessible, cold tome, this album is out and out fun. 'Race:In' is aptly named. A frenetic picked guitar and percussion base is overlaid by cheerful whistles and vocal scales. Great rhythms, great tunes, all in the opener, which is clearly an intro. They have left their rather staid early work behind. This is an assault on our pleasure centres.

Second, the emphatic yes. 'Atlas' is one of the great compositions of modern music. Take a glam rock beat - could have been lifted from T-REX or THE GLITTER BAND - add chipping guitar, subtle keyboard effects and the weirdest avant-garde vocals, and you have a minestrone of flavours, influences and ideas all complementing each other perfectly. Tellingly, it has been described by reviewers as the best dance track of the last decade, and I'd have to concur.

But did you get that? Dance track. All that rhythm and fun, and it's no longer high-brow prog. Instead it's fodder for the club scene, for lowbrow ravers. That'll bother some of you, but I don't care. Take your categorisation and throw it away. This is simply great music. The track is structured as a dance track: three minutes of all-out dance, then a cool-down midsection (the breakdown) and a resurgence at the end. Closer to OAKENFOLD than GENTLE GIANT.

Third, the no. The album is uneven. 'Tonto' is the equal of 'Atlas', though it's much more a progressive track in the traditional sense: a slow build to a climax at the 3:30 mark, then an equally slow slow-down and fade out. 'Tij' is also spectacular, though less so, and has more elements of the AUTECHRE-like end of the electronic music scene. Other tracks are interesting, even startling: 'Ddiamondd', for example, is a matched rhythm and vocal track that, like others on this album, is little more than a fragment. Unfortunately, the album is a bit like a microwave cake, all soft and undercooked in the centre. 'Rainbow' and 'Bad Trails' are both more experimental, and both give the sense that the band threw a few ideas together. Neither track has much compositional integrity, though both are interesting to listen to.

So, not a masterpiece, though I bet BATTLES make one - but only one - before they get bored and try something else. No a masterpiece, but a wonderful album nonetheless. Go on, tap that foot. Wiggle those toes, at least.

russellk | 4/5 |


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