Review Summary: Ba da da da da. . . ba da da da da. . .
Battles - Mirrored
Review by Clumpy
Think about the last time you really heard a classic electronica record. I mean CLASSIC, as in an indispensable part of your record collection. "Neon Golden" doesn't count. That record had heavy beats, but was very indie. Getting into the field of math rock and noise, the pickings get even slimmer. The Boredoms? Nice and weird, but not classic. And Yoshimi's side project OOIOO was mad good but too fond of the dolphins-being-tortured sound effects to really vie for classic status. So where's the real deal?
A caveat: I never got into techno. Sure, I liked the odd Secret Chiefs 3 or Air song, but I just couldn't find the melody I needed in music to really get into the field of techno.
Enter Battles. Masterminds, absolute masterminds. How they managed to come out of left field with such an awesome, imaginative, melodic and (we'll see) completely unmarketable album astounds me. The key is in the progression. Sure, some of these songs hover near the volatile eight-minute mark (and one track even surpasses it), but darn if these songs don't use their copious time effectively. No "Here We Go Sublime"-style repetition here. These songs develop, progress and fold upon themselves. Battles are songwriters first and foremost, and these songs are more than mere background noise.
Every second on this album is absolutely planned. The band is never content to pick out a neat groove and just settle into it. Single "Atlas", for example, juggles three or four independent riffs balanced by the manic drum line before subtle and gradually building up to a thrilling crescendo. Even the end - where the instruments fall apart and the track sounds like an engine shutting down - is perfect.
The vocals are unintelligible enough for this album to qualify for instrumental status. Drums and arpeggiato guitar fill nearly every second of this album's runtime. How can an album be so artifical and yet feel so organic? There's something inexplicably exciting about artists willing to step beyond the comfort zone of modern music and create something truly wonderful. Yes, this sounds like an album from the year 2020, but only because modern music has stagnated so. Battles make no sacrifices for their sound.
Each song is a showstopper. Opener track "Race In" builds up slowly and perfectly to an seemingly-epic finish. "Atlas" sounds like the Munchkinland song on hallucinogenics, pulsing beat and ferocious drumming aside. And "Leyendecker" is a sinister, chillingly-perfect pop song, the kind that Mike Patton would like to make. Err. . . tried to make.
Again, this album may take some time to get used to. But when finally crack the code (probably during the moment you hear "Race Out", the great final track that plays as an inverted version of the first track) this album will have you for its own.
Sure, it may not blow you away upon first listen. But keep it up, and you'll begin to hear the non-obvious melodies and musical chops driving this record. And it will slowly, inevitably seep into your soul and infect your consciousness. And if, in so doing, it earns a permanent spot in the top tier of your record collection, so be it.
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