Battles Mirrored

Battles Mirrored
Just when it seemed like math rock was a relic of the ’90s, Battles’ EP series proved that the genre was not simply jam band music for social failures. Battles’ EPs were challenging enough — you had to wonder how the band could possibly string their many, many ideas into one self-contained album. But they did it! Describing a record like this is a little like memorising a long passage in a strange language: you need to learn it phrase-by-phrase, and once you’ve got a handle on one you’ve forgotten the one before it. It’d be easy to take the "supergroup” approach and boil the band down to their composite parts: their members are either the sons of avant-garde jazz musicians or graduates of forerunning post-rock and hard rock bands. Mirrored’s sound reflects its makers’ musical backgrounds, of course, but there’s more to it. Take the album’s first single, "Atlas,” which places vocodered, alien-like chants over ominous beats; it sounds like something from Joe Meek’s I Hear a New World updated for diminished attention spans. And even though the track is seven minutes long, it begs to be played on repeat. Mirrored is a difficult album to take in, even after repeated listens — each track is staggering in its own way. But you don’t need to digest Battles’ music to enjoy it, and it’s abundantly clear that Mirrored is closer to brilliant than self-indulgent, even if one is hard-pressed to explain why and how. (Warp)