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Battles - Juice B Crypts CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

4.00 | 7 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Battles have shrunk to a duo now, having lost bassist and guitarist Dave Konopka after Tyondai Braxton. Both of them are missed in the Battles sound, but I've got to give to the two remaining members that they try to make the most of it. This means particularly that this album is a firework of ideas, surprises, and originality. The previous La Di Da Di was much more consistent with a clear thread running through the album; Juice B Crypts rather tries to push some borders on most tracks. The overall sound though can be seen as an element of consistency also in Juice B Crypts, and with the Battles oeuvre in general. This comes without bass and with much less guitar now, synthesizers, electronics and Stanier's mighty (and occasionally quite noisy) drums take the center stage with some vocals (by guest vocalists) thrown in once in a while, and even rarer guitar. Ian Williams loves fat, round, and sequenced sounds. Typically for Battles, it's a very rhythmical and physical affair (to which both the drums and the sequenced synsounds contribute), pretty fast and mind boggling at times, with quite a few changes within the tracks; I should note that these make musical sense and come across as reasonably organic (which is not always the case in math rock my perception). For sure some glorious grooves are to be found here.

The overall mood is a special thing about this album, unique and not easy to pin down. Surely it's rather bright and pulsating, the happiness that this conveys is superficial enough that we can wonder what's behind it... something deeper or... nothing? The missing bass often leaves an empty space between the drums and the electronic sounds that is too obvious to be ignored. In many places the music comes over as robotic, and somewhat alien to natural human instincts. Some more humanity and variety comes in through the use of various vocalists (among them Jon Anderson). Some of the voices are manipulated and somewhat roboterised, and only underline the outerworldly feeling, we also get some rap, and where the singing is more "natural", it points to the strangeness of the other proceedings by contrast. I guess many listeners will miss warmth and emotional depth here, but what can be perceived as deficiency can also be seen as a quality, the impression of emotional superficiality may itself be too superficial to do this music justice, and the depth is as much implied as it seems missing where we look for it. For all the superficial fun, complexity, and brightness, I sense yearning for something lost as another somewhat deeper element here, barely hidden by some of the smiling noise making at the surface.

This is a strikingly unique and innovative album with a happy-go-lucky and making-a-noise tendency that may be frustrating at times, but there's much to discover behind it. Williams and Stanier have succeeded to built something very special from the Battles elements that are left; maybe they have tried a bit too hard. I'm curious how this will do for me in the long run. For now I say 3.7 stars.

Lewian | 4/5 |


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