Thursday, May 24, 2007

'Battles' Worth Choosing


don't talk politics and don't throw stones

Battles - Mirrored (Warp)

A prog/avant-garde record whose longest track is its most exciting? That's new. Yeah, there was "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," back in 1975, the last time this kind of stuff crossed paths with pop culture until the Mars Volta exhumed it and stole Tool's Latin dictionary. But now we get "Rainbow," eight minutes of drumrolls and engine revs and shiny little scales of synth candy dropped in, before it all crashes down around 4:50 with a few seconds of actual silence before bringing everything but the prog-kitchen sink for a final bow. All of it glorious, all of it resembling Animal Collective on Red Bull, if they had taken their acid to Glenn Branca instead of Vashti Bunyan. Already impressive for not ignoring the "rock" in "post-rock," they don't just stop at guitar-drum heroics. There's "Leyendecker" with jerky rhythms and twisty vocoder hook that Timbaland and Andre 3000 could appreciate, respectively. There's the marching single "Atlas," whose description officially endorsed by the band is "fascist Smurf society" and actually sounds like the Munchkins making fun of the Flying Monkeys. . . over Gary Glitter's "Rock And Roll Part 2." There's the buzzing Kokono No. 1-for-dummies chillout "Bad Trails" which varies the pace because it really does sound like Animal Collective. Because they think in loops, the five- and seven- and eight-minute tracks stay tuneful all the way to the very last processed bloop. And then there's the amazing "Snare Hanger," which propels like a homing missile and makes confusion sound euphoric, even melodic, with sweet-and-sour guitar snakes, desperate electric piano plunks and backward, dying synth pads. All under two minutes. When's the last time a prog/avant-garde record did that? A-

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