Local Wire

Battles

No calendar year is complete without at least a handful of insurgent, crit-consensus staples that can't quite win over the populace. M.I.A, Strokes, Liz Phair — we're waving sadly back at you from a future where even Maroon 5's label status is uncertain. Among 2007's more deserving memes is Battles, the zany, four-headed demon spawn of former Lynx, Don Caballero, and Helmet members. Mirrored, the band's debut full-length, suggests what Tortoise might produce were that group locked in a dungeon and forced to power through eight-bit Mega Man marathons while subsisting solely on a diet of Jolt and 'shrooms. On Oompa-Loompa math-stomper "Atlas," a melody-bearing Lilliputian mob — actually the voice of singer/guitarist Tyondai Braxton, neutered and splintered — chants incomprehensibly along with some unholy percussive union of a beatboxed grunt, John Stanier's pounding drums, and the slap-crack of handclaps. "Bad Trails" marries post rock's matte-black surfaces to Animal Collective's tribalist cheer, while "TIJ" seamlessly shifts from hyperventilating whumps to cartoon car-chase soundtrack. Battles' breathlessly whirlybird churn can momentarily turn anyone within range into a living, bug-eyed bobblehead, which explains (and reinforces) all the hype they're attracting.
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Ray Cummings