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Battlestations - Battlestations CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

3.74 | 26 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars If you've already heard Battlestations' recent masterpiece "In A Cold Embrace," it shouldn't be hard for you to extrapolate what this, their self-titled debut, will sound like. Just take the same beautifully alien psychedelic-post rock from that album, make it a little dreamier and a little more jagged and you've got a pretty good approximation.

If you haven't heard "In A Cold Embrace," then your task is a bit harder. Try to imagine what Godspeed You! Black Emperor would sound like if they came from another planet, or what Pink Floyd would sound like if Delia Derbyshire had been a member - or, better yet, don't try to imagine what it will sound like at all. Just put it on and hear for yourself. Like "In A Cold Embrace," "Battlestations" is a trip: a dreamy (and at times nightmarish) journey into another world.

"Segment 1: No Survivors" begins with a crescendo of ambience that immediately sets a dreamy, slightly alien tone for the track. Some lazily strummed guitar chords are added into the mix, and some very unique and interesting synth textures keep the song sounding totally fresh and compelling. At about the 3 and a half minute mark the feel of the track changes drastically, with a minimalistic, almost dark-ambient sound serving as the backdrop against which the next section of the track is developed. A variety of synths are of course at the center of the sound, but percussion is also utilized very well, never sounding intrusive but helping to add another layer to the sonic palette nonetheless. One of the album's more melodic sections follows, providing a surprisingly hopeful theme given the track's rather bleak title. Rest assured, however; if you're looking for melancholy the track can provide that in spades as well. Especially notable in my opinion is a section around the twelve minute mark that manages to sound like a jazzy ambient, post-rock film noir soundtrack. While the track's 18 minute run-time does seem rather clearly demarcated into distinct sections, that's certainly no detriment to its quality, and it's a stellar piece of genre-bending composition.

"Segment 2: The Taste of the Kill" starts off in a more structured manner than did its predecessor, with a repeating, rhythmic pattern serving as the track's backbone. Guitar and of course synths are layered on and the track briefly takes on a kind of similarity to, believe it or not, Yes (think of the beginning of "And You And I"). Unsurprisingly, however, Battlestations goes in a completely different direction, continuing to layer the sound and eventually introducing a spoken-word monologue that highlights how cinematic this music really is. Lest the listener become too comfortable, however, the final third of the track veers hard into experimentalism, dabbling in dark ambiences and minimalistic sound collages that border at times on musique concrete. Like "Segment 1," definite "sections" can be pulled out of the track's 7 minute run-time, but it certainly can't be said that the track doesn't flow, and it should be abundantly clear by now that the group knows its stuff when it comes to putting a piece together.

If "Segment 1" started off ambient and "Segment 2" started off rhythmically, "Segment 3: Accidents of Ideals" provides the most (in my opinion) interesting opening, coming out of the gate with a section that sounds like Pink Floyd would have if they'd taken heed of the advent of trip hop. Despite this rather peaceful (and perhaps even soothing) opening, however, "Segment 3" on the whole is by far the heaviest and most intense of the three tracks. With glitchy, distorted sounds floating in the track's background for most of its 18.5 minute duration, "Segment 3" proves at times to be even more hauntingly disturbing than either of the other two segments. Reverb-heavy, disconnected wordless vocals only add to that impression, as does a near constant, ghostly droning ambience behind even the track's most melodic sections. The ending is especially incredible. The only adjective I can think to describe it with is crashing; it's noisy in all the right ways and brings an amazing sense of finality to the album. It's perhaps unsurprising, then, that out of the three "Segments" it's this one that sounds to me most like one complete piece rather than various sections. While that doesn't necessarily mean it's objectivany better or worse than the other two tracks, it does provide a very satisfying end to the album and for that reason I'd probably name it as my favorite.

Thus, while this eponymous album doesn't quite reach the flawlessness of its successor, it's not too far short. In a way, its more distinct makeup even works in its favor - certain themes stick out in a way that they probably wouldn't have otherwise, and that makes for some very dramatic moments. Overall, then, "Battlestations" is a very good album, especially considering that it was the group's debut, and it's even further confirmation that this group is certainly one to watch in the future.


VanVanVan | 4/5 |


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