I was a little late arriving to the Battles party, but once I'd picked up their three separate EP releases, I knew it was a group that was worth keeping an ear out for. Although they were certainly over-indulgent in places, there were tracks where the group seemed to lock into something primal and rocking that sounded like little else being created in music. After a lot of touring and a lot of wondering when the group would put out a full length, Mirrored is finally here, and it's worth the wait.
A couple months ago, the video for "Atlas" was released and in addition to having some killer visuals, the song itself sounded like a bit of a revelation in music. Locking into a chugging, rhythmic stomp, the track progresses with hyper-melodic bits of guitar, synths, and sampled bits of each that push it into a couple delirious crescendos. Oh yeah, and there are the filtered vocals of Tyondi Braxton that are a bit like a muppet on helium, but once you get past the initial surprise factor, they work into the song like they were meant there to be all along and just beckon singing (or squeaking, whatever) along with.
If you've heard "Atlas," you know that it sets the bar incredibly high, but fortunately Mirrored has more than enough kick-ass moments to go around. All the touring must have allowed the group to really hone the finer points of their sound, because the eleven songs and just over fifty minutes of the release contain some of the most impressive melding of analogue and digital sounds in rock music that I've heard in a long time. Things are locked in and incredibly tight, but they're also heavy, organic, and melodic at the same time, with powerful rhythms that are highlighted with all kinds of insane instrumentation. Like the best releases that bring technologies together, it's sometimes hard to figure out where one piece ends and the other begins.
Elsewhere on the release, you've got "Ddiamondd," which churns with a thick and juicy bass while Braxton again spits out some nonsensical vocals as sampled hand-claps, thunderous guitars, and mashing drums pound out a track that's both brutal and hilarious at the same time. "Leyendecker" is even freakier, with chipmunk-style filtered vocals, a crushing programmed beat highlighted with live drums, and spooky drones broken apart by shards of dry guitar. "TIJ" sounds the closest to the older material of the group, with multiple guitar melodies careening and dancing off one another as the rhythms behind it all get even more crazy, but there are new additions like sampled noise and a weird mid-section of madness (that sounds like carny music gone metal) that push it into new and exciting territory.
Other than a couple moments that aren't quite as sharp (like the slightly off-kilter "Bad Trails," that sounds a bit like a bizarro-world TV On The Radio b-side), Mirrored is a completely cracking release that more than lives up to the potential hinted at on the aforementioned EPs from the group. It's dance music that's hard to dance to and post rock music that's post what everyone else making post rock is doing. Oh yeah, and it's also one of the best releases of the year.