Band: Battles
Album: Mirrored
Best song: “Atlas.” No question.
Worst song: “Bad Trails” is a good song, but probably the weakest on the record.

Formed in 2003/2004, Battles had released two EPs before Mirrored. I was asked to describe the band to a friend recently and couldn’t do it. I tried to use terms that deccribe the former bands of some of the members — math rock, experimental, etc. — but it didn’t coalesce.

The best way, though, to describe Battles — especially after seeing the band live this past weekend — is with this sentence: Welcome to the 21st century.

Mirrored is nothing if not modern. The band fuses the digital and analog remarkably well, vocoding Tyondai Braxton’s vocals all over the album and distorting every possible instrument, save for John Stanier’s punshing drums.

The driving force behind the band is, indeed, Stanier. The album cover puts on no airs about it; his bright yellow Tama kit is in the center of the art. Live, it’s similarly set up, with the high-cymballed drum set at the front of the stage and in the middle of it all. Stanier is the one constant in the band, a respite from the drum machined indie rock of the Postal Service, Big Black and mid-career Flaming Lips.

This essential humanity is what makes Mirrored so great, but the technology and creativity make the album a marvel. Like the space program, the Internet and video games, Mirrored is the human potential aided by technology. It’s wonderful to think of a band as something organic and analog; bands like Band of Horses or the Hold Steady do something tried and true very well. But, at the end of the day, those bands are boring; they go guitar/guitar/bass/drums/vocals. They’re treading over the same course.

Mirrored is anything but boring. Battles, as Braxton himself says, are “a modern experimental band… We’re a product of our time.”

And the band’s live show reflects this. Ian Williams and Braxton both stand at the side of Stanier behind analog keyboards. Williams’ holds a scant few delay and effects pedals, while Braxton’s is crowded with samples, digital delays, distortions and pitch shifters. Both have guitars, though they move the guitars around to their backs when not needed. Braxton’s mic rests on its side on his keyboard when not needed. Dave Konopka stands barely behind the drums, easily shifting between the bass and guitar while using an arsenal of effects pedals.

Like many great records and bands, I can’t fully describe it. Instead, here the band is, playing “Atlas.”


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  • By Classics | Albums That I Own on July 18, 2010 at 10:15 am

    […] them as something of a cheap ripoff of so many dance/electronic/conventional bands (grand example: Battles). They’re not as fun as !!!, for […]

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

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