Just to be clear right at the start, and avoid confusion. There is a band called Battle and a band called Battles. I was confused earlier in the year too. The singular one I missed supporting Clap Your Hands Say Yeah in February, but after checking them out on myspace I realised I wasn’t missing much. The plural one, on the other hand, is at least more interesting, if not loads better.
I’ve given Battles quite a lot of my listening time lately in an attempt to either like or understand their current UK release, a CD that combines both their B EP and EP C. It’s on Warp records, which in my mind gives them an edge from the start.
But has it been worth it? It certainly appears so from the first track SZ2, which starts off in a nice atmospheric post-rock vein, before introducing some glitchy electronica, then chiming bells, then some fuzzy guitar and stabbing synths, then cranking up the spiky guitars and introducing a skittering breakbeat. It’s beautifully layered, builds nicely, is over nine minutes long and is really quite marvellous.
Unfortunately the rest doesn’t quite live up to this fine start.
The negatives: pretentious titles don’t really help - Ipt2, +Tras, UW and Hi/Lo anyone? And let’s not confuse Ipt2 with Ipt-2 either. The 12-minute meandering synth hum of Bttls, which introduces some noises which resemble various goings on in a robot’s kitchen. More glitch and inconsequential sound effects on Fantasy. Followed by nine 4-second tracks of one electronic pulse. It would be difficult to dance to Dance. I could go on…
The positives: Some of the tracks hold together nicely, in particular +Tras with its choppy guitar riffing and Hi/Lo with its discordant guitar and bleeps over a minimalist synth baseline. And some nice artwork too.
They’re quite possibly a band that's just trying too hard be too cool for their own good. If the music really stood out, we could forgive them. But as much as I’ve tried, it’s an album that’s hard to like, and even hard to admire, as I’m not really sure what Battles are up to. It’s the sort of music that some hipsters will try to like because they think they’re meant to. But challenge them to be truthful. Do you really like it? I’m not sure the answer will be yes.
However I’ve got an odd feeling that they could be good live, if they cut the crap and play to their strengths.
Anyway, make up your own mind and check these out.
Download: Battles - SZ2
Download: Battles - +Tras
And if I’ve not put you off, you could even try buying EP C / B EP here.