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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 Quirky, Math-y, Multi-Colored, and Superb

Battles' single album MIRRORED blew me away on first listen. It is one of those albums that I wanted to rush out and give 5 stars immediately. However, now that I've went through that experience quite a few times, I knew I needed to let it percolate awhile. Now, months after I purchased the album, I'm still pretty close to awarding a masterpiece rating. After repeated listens, the album does suffer from the repetition issues that plague almost every album in this category. It's a little tiring after 11 songs, and by the end I'm ready to move on. A great ride, but not one I'm going to hop back on immediately. At the same time, this can be more a sign of an album being challenging than anything being wrong with it. I've listened several times today, and continue to be very impressed. Songs that I thought were a little weaker reminded me how imaginative and powerful they were.

This album is a much more thickly textured work than most math rock, with keyboards and processed vocals playing a huge part in the sound. The mechanical nature of these layers adds a lot to the insistent rhythms typical of math. Where some bands like Don Caballero always sounded too noisy for the general feel of the music to me, the sound of Battles is cohesive. It makes sense. Former Helmet drummer John Stanier adds a bit more "rock" to the calculated compositions, striking a better balance between tight beatkeeping and human feel than some of his peers. In fact, the music of Battles is much closer to my ideal of math than the more prototypical bands of the genre.

The music here is almost giddily upbeat. Pitch-shifted and harmonized vocal lines evoke images of tie-dyed chipmunks after too much coffee. The bounce of the instruments is clearly ahead of the beat, almost begging for a communal hop-in-place dance. Polyrhythmic ideas abound, and tones range from crisp bells to big beefy bass. Instruments play in unison, complement, and even counterpoint. From the opening track, we know we're in for a crazy trip. Like all post-rock, the music is created by variation of the balance of different layers, each of which repeats a music idea (sometimes effectively, sometimes a bit too much.) Watching the band perform live on youtube, I realize just how dependent the music is on the mix and the mode of listening. Without proper balance, the repeating themes can become mind-numbing. Luckily, the mix here is quite good, and the parts weave in and out to great effect for the majority of the time.

Again, the album can cause a little listener fatigue by the end. But the overall effect is fresh and quite impressive. Battles offer a unique take on a still fairly small genre of music. This is part of what progressive means in the 2000's. MIRRORED is certainly an excellent entry to any prog library, at least any one interested in what is actually new now. 4+/5 stars.

Favorite tracks: "Tonto," "Leyendecker"

Negoba | 4/5 |


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