Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Battles - Atlas & Tonto+ (vinyl rips) & Live @ Vicar St., Dublin, 15/05/2008


Mirrored - two contrasting opinions:

from The Obligatory End of Year List: Hardcore for Nerds Gets Zeitgeisty

"Not to sound too self-conscious, but another hipster pick. Another show – like Dan Deacon – that I only got to see the second time around. But another excellent, outstanding album, and truly one of the most interesting of the year."

from Zen and the Art of Face Punching: Best of... (what year was it again?) - 'the serious letdowns'

"I have no idea WHY people are flipping over this. I think it sucks, big time. Are people just that desperate for something different? EP C & B EP were both pretty cool and while I'm sure this is in line with where they were going, its a ride I am happy I got off early."

I normally quote ZAFP to back up my own opinions/descriptions of albums (e.g., this post) but not, however, in this case. Since both Brendan Campbell and John Stuart Mill have taught me the value of defending my opinions, I shall attempt a spirited defence:

Battles, Mirrored may neither be invulnerable to criticism nor untarnished by hipsterism and hype. In fact, they would be the first two reasons for not liking it. But it's still a damn good record. I enjoy Battles not just because it is comple math-rock, but because it is absorbing, intelligent music of its own right. Mirrored is catchy, driving and absorbing to listen to. Difference is not the main attraction. So sorry if it seems too much like Don Cab for Cutie, but that's the whole charm of it. And aside from the charm, the chops are undeniable.

Mirrored is an enjoyable record, more so because of its difference. It is rock music with a new kick, yes, but one which is fairly accessible. Perhaps not immediately so for a lot of people, but that is only an indication of its ability to spread beyond people already interested in math-rock. The new sound of Battles has the ability to draw the listener in by playing on the existing sounds of rock music, and making something new and exciting out of that.

And another point of view - from Geek Down: Best of 2007: Albums

"...Mirrored showcases a sort of minimalistic rock music. While seemingly complicated, it's really not. In place of complication is a lot of patterning that is usually frowned upon in rock music. The kind of things Battles do on Mirrored are usually qualified as "repetitive" on rock releases (I'm sure a great deal of critics have called this album repetitive). But the patterning and repetition on this album only serve to unify its disparate elements (read: instruments of different timbres). I've used this comparison in a previous entry, but Mirrored works on its own logic. The tracks work as one singular unit as opposed to different units reacting and responding to each other. Changes in the tracks seem completely fluid from every aspect of the composition. I think it's pretty groundbreaking, because the learning curve of understanding unified compositions is so immense for non-classically trained musicians (including myself). It's really hard to explain and I feel pretentious doing it, but that's all I hear. Mirrored is completely unified..."

John Stuart Mill - On Liberty:

"The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error"


Battles, 'Atlas' 12" single

1. Atlas (full version)

2. Atlas - DJ Koze Remix

Battles - Atlas

Buy from Warp Records and in mp3/FLAC from Bleep.


Battles, Tonto+ EP

1. Tonto (Album version)

2. Tonto (The Field remix)

3. Tonto (Four Tet remix)

4. Leyendecker (DJ Emz remix feauturing Joell Ortiz)

Battles - Tonto

CD with two extra live tracks, and bonus DVD with both formats including Atlas, Tonto and making-of Tonto videos, available from Warp Records and in high quality mp3 from Bleep.


So, the gig was pretty good. Not too different from the last time I saw them. Subjectively, the experience seemed more enjoyable (a bigger crowd, and less time for things to get going) but not as interesting (less feats of sonic endurance, and of course I've seen most of it already)

Second act on the bill, Irish (and, specifically, Dublin) instrumental post-rock heroes The Redneck Manifesto were a big draw, as they don't play live often. I haven't so far properly warmed to their sound - a bit like a heavier, more rhythmic Mercury Program - but's easy to respect their energy and ability to carry an audience. Bassist and apparent frontman Richie Egan has been doing interesting stuff in alternative-pop solo project Jape, from whom there might be some videos posted here soon.

Battles playing Tonto and Atlas together (in that order, and followed by Leyendecker) was easily the best part of the night. Their live performances are in a little bit remixes of themselves, and it's the interpretations of sounds and rhythms which make watching them so enjoyable. It's also a direct experience of the crafted math-rock sounds of Mirrored (and works before it), and to an extent a physical experience of a very cerebral, technical record.

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