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Battles - Mirrored CD (album) cover

MIRRORED

Battles

 

Post Rock/Math rock

3.79 | 111 ratings

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Pnoom!
4 stars Rating: B+

It must've been nice back in the days when genre distinctions were reasonably easy to follow. There's no such luxury today, however, as Battles clearly shows. On the one hand, they are very much within the indie mold, building off repetition to create robotic math rock. On the other hand, the technical ability required to play Mirrored, what with its nano-rhythms and rapid shifts of sections, is far more aligned with traditional prog music. So which is it?

Neither, actually. Battles are not truly indie, nor are they a 100% prog band, instead they lie somewhere between the two, on a plane of existence no one has touched before. This is music stripped as bare as it possibly can be, reduced to rhythms and little more. Throughout the entirety of Mirrored, you will chance upon so few melodies you could count them on one hand. Instead of melodies, you will find complex polyrhythms created by everything: the drums, the bass, the guitar, even the vocals. These rhythms are so layered, the songs sound full, and thus the listener doesn't feel cheated because of the lack of melodies. Indeed, repeated listens show that melodies would only clutter Mirrored, which, if left as is, is perfectly organized.

One need only listen to "Atlas" to hear first hand the complexity of Mirrored. After the opening section, everything drops out except one steady beat, around which new rhythms are added until Battles are right back into their multi-layered indie-math-prog explosion. And, while you might (rightly) wonder where emotion fits into such a framework, you needn't worry. While the music itself is almost completely emotionless, as technical and robotic as it is, the band members are clearly having a lot of fun (just listen to the downright silly vocals), and this transmits itself to the listener. In that sense, Mirrored is every bit as successful from an emotional standpoint as any other CD, even if its not conventional in the slightest. It's not flawless: I think it drags a bit in the second half before pulling itself together for an awesome finish, but overall, it's a clear highlight of 2007.

The members of Battles may be quick to point out their roots - several of the members hail from pioneering math rock band Don Caballero - but, ultimately, Battles looks less to the past and more to the future. Undeniably inventive and a genuinely fun band, Battles is a worthwhile band for everyone to look into. You might not like it, but you can't help but admire it. Preferably, of course, you will both love and admire it. It deserves nothing less.

Pnoom! | 4/5 |

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