By Alex MolotkowVirtuosic music can seem bizarre to non-musicians — say "math rock” and one pictures some scruffy long-hair who might once have been an E.L.P. fan, air drumming and expatiating on each guitar solo. With this image in mind, your average melody-and-structure loving individual might be reluctant to put on a Battles record. But Mirrored, though challenging, is completely listenable.
Nobody is as aware of the "techie” stereotype as Battles themselves. When asked whether Battles is a dry, mathematical project, guitarist/bassist Dave Konopka gives a decisive answer: "Definitely not. [That] implies that our intention is to dazzle the listener by how technical we can be, which would just amount to being a boring technical band. I consider the technical side of Battles to be a by-product of our expression. To quote Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid, ‘True strength come from heart.’” Konopka, like the rest of the band, is a tech-rock veteran — he played in Lynx before joining Battles with Tyondai Braxton (soloist and son of avant-garde jazz player Anthony Braxton), John Stanier (Helmet, Tomahawk) and Ian Williams (Don Caballero).
You might compare Mirrored to the Thing (as in the sci-fi critter) — a behemoth made up of miscellaneous ideas and genres that assimilates everything it touches into the whole. It’s astounding how well the band has managed to fuse so many fragments into one self-contained album. And though most bands loathe being categorised, Battles launch a very mature protest against pigeonholing: "Making a record like this was almost a game with labels,” Williams says, "We hit different notes in the record to almost address [the genre] question with the music itself. It's a nonchalance towards labels, and yet at the same time, realising there are these labels, and working our way through them.” Simply put, Battles can address the clichés without resorting to them — a testament to their vision.