Review Summary: With "Mirrored" Battles extends their sound past the typical realm of math rock and succeeds.
Diluting and at the same time expanding pop music into a schizophrenic joy ride of effect-ridden vocals and math rock sensibility, New York's Battles has created one of the best releases of 2007. Where EP's "B" and "Tras" were held back by their unabashed devotion to late '90's math rock and the '70's kraut scene, Battles debut LP "Mirrored" is a distinctive, addictive, technical paradise. Building their sound of old to it's peak with the inclusion of vocals and making an attempt at increasing their popularity with their recent signing to Warp Records, Battles is poised to become the latest "hot band" in the indie circuit. With, "Mirrored's" more sensible upbeat sound they could easily do just that.
Born from the remnants of other notable bands (Tomahawk, Helmet, and Don Caballero), Battles has always been labeled as a super group. Though unlike Asia and Coverdale – Page, Battles' flurry of EPs were definitely not disappointing in the slightest: Battles' early work was distinctively math rock which is apparently something they decided they would shake off with "Mirrored", which shows the band drawing from basically everything. Prog, rock, pop, polka; if it exists I'm sure one of the members of Battles consumes it and adds it in some subtle way to the band's music. Opener "Race In" is a clear example of the extent of ground this band can cover in just four minutes. Shrugging through an intro of driving percussion and an assortment of tone dipped synths and palm muted guitars, "Race In" finally explodes into a brief plodding bass-heavy moment, but not before we are serenaded by guitarist Tyonadi's angelic chants.
"Mirrored's" assortment of songs all seem to encapsulate the same feeling as "Race In". Presenting a bizarre arrangement of layered guitars, and synths behind one of the most solid rhythm sections presently performing, Battles is a very sound conscious group. Guitarists Ian Williams and Tyonadi Braxton are known for their dizzying skill of playing both guitar and synth simultaneously while performing live, something that is not simple in even the basic sense, but when you throw in Battles' intense love of off kilter rhythms it is clear that no member of this band is an inexperienced player. Although their skill is clearly demonstrated in tracks like the Nintendo-esque "Rainbow", "Tonto" clearly shows that although the band could probably go toe-to-toe with Liquid Tension Experiment, they clearly favor dwelling in the realms of minimalism. Battles are obviously easily comparable to the genres of electronica and math rock due to their way of slowly piecing and building a song before their listeners, though unlike someone stuck in either genre, the band is able to stretch their limbs and dazzle their listeners in full danceable glory (like on "Leyendecker") or at times just sit back and dredge through a beat for upwards of four minutes (like on single "Atlas").
With "Mirrored", Battles has created their most successful album for three reasons: it never gives into the sonic pretension of past tracks like "Fantasy", the band has clearly stretched the lasting power of their music by adding more poppish refrains and vocals, and finally and most importantly, every member of Battles is inventive and original. Some listeners may find the album samey or too similar but one aspect of Mirrored that can't be disputed is that it is a unique album with little to no similar peers. Pop of the future is what Battles is and let's just say I can't wait for shiny jumpsuits if this is the kind of thing that'll be playing inside of them.