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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Battles
Mirrored
Warp

Rating: 9/10 ?


May 11, 2007
Instrumental music can be a difficult thing to enjoy for any length of time. There is something inherently captivating in the human voice, and vocals are generally the thing that make a listener want to come back and hear songs over and over. How many times have you listened to "5-4=Unity" from Pavement's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, or Spoon's "This Book Is A Movie" from their album Girls Can Tell? Probably not as many times as the other songs on those albums, the songs with vocals. Go ahead and check your iTunes play statistics, we've got time to wait for verification.

On the whole, I have found that indie instrumental artists generally fall, albeit loosely, into one of three categories: Techno-party programmers, Country/Surf soundscapers, or Cinematic-thematic dynamicists. The creative music of New York supergroup Battles falls firmly into the third category.

If the Flaming Lips mated with Marilyn Manson and ate Underworld for breakfast, the end result might sound something like Battles' debut album, Mirrored. Book-ended with "Race:In" and "Race:Out," Battles have created their own movie-monster that is as much about thrill seeking as it is about devastating everything in its path. It's a romping, stomping high-energy beast that only stops post-apocalypse to bask in the silence of its wake.

Originally an instrumental quartet, Battles have released a trio of EPs on various indie labels over the course of their three year existence. Now stabled alongside the likes of !!! and Maximo Park on the Warp label, the band has decided to push their mathrock boundaries a bit further by adding the one thing they've been missing thus far, vocals, which they deploy in a manner that is not so much singing as it is using the voice as another instrument to manipulate the sound. Intricate guitar work blanketed by heavily synthesized keys and loads of powerful drumming can be found in every song Battles have created, but the addition of Tyondai Braxton's altered voice makes the band sound that much more like mathrock from the future.

Even without the vocals, Mirrored pushes boundaries with all manner of bells and whistles. The opener, "Race:In," containing both bells and whistles, jumps out of the gate and into high gear, setting the stage for the dark, cinematic Battles worldview that unfurls over the album's course. John Stanier is responsible for the driving force behind the drums, his Helmet- and Tomahawk-honed chops shining through every song. At certain points Stanier's cadence almost outpaces the song itself, leaving the rest of the band a step behind, almost needing to play catch up to his intense stickwork. Lead single "Atlas" is a dark, rolling number that sounds as if the Secret Machines hijacked Godspeed You! Black Emperor and were asked to score an updated version of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. The grumbling vocals and back and forth synthesized sounds keep this seven minute epic moving at light speed, but it's all cemented around the solid, repetitive 'Beautiful People-esque' drumming.

Ranging from one minute to over eight minutes in length, the eleven songs on this album all have a few things in common: 1) Energy. - Even the least immediate song on this album ("Bad Trails") packs a powerful punch and shifts gears enough times to keep you on your toes, almost like a journey through a butterfly garden on the edge of a rainforest. 2) Original Sound. - Seems to me Battles strive to be original while keeping their 'voice'. There are moments in which their sound is comparable to any number of goth/metal/IDM bands around, but there will always be something uniquely Battles about them. 3) That Emm-Effing Drumming. - I don't know what it is about Stanier, but he sure knows how to step it up and shine in the spotlight from behind an enormous drum kit.

To set out with the goal of doing something different from what is currently being done is always a challenging mission, one that is rarely accomplished, in any arena, with 100 percent success. Orson Welles did it with Citizen Cain, Alfred Hitchcock did it with Psycho, and Huey Lewis and the News did it with Sports*. I'm not saying Battles is the next Huey Lewis and the News, but this album has the markings of a next step for future generations.

* This is a lie.

Reviewed by Bob Ladewig
Having been introduced to good music by his sister in the early years, Bob Ladewig has been searching out all the best in indie music ever since. He also rides a skateboard and performs/directs comedy shows and, like all great men, he\'s afraid of really growing up.

See other reviews by Bob Ladewig

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