Well today I finally got my hands on the Battles CD, ‘EP C/B EP’, an introductory compilation of the band’s previous EPs and singles. I must say that I am very impressed.
Very few bands manage to make guitars still sound interesting, but Battles is definitely one of them. This sounds like what I hoped Tortoise would sound like post-Standards (when in reality Tortoise made a passable-but-slightly-dull album, ‘It’s All Around You’). This album is energetic, unremittingly experimental, always seeking to surprise the listener. They are constantly turning your expectations inside out. In other words, exactly how Tortoise made me feel when I first heard them.
There seems to be some confusion as to which of the discs is the first — probably neither is. So I’ll just refer to each disc by its name. Initial stand-out tracks from ‘B EP’ include ‘SZ2’, a real punchy opener; and ‘Tras’, infectious staccato riffing. I was also impressed by the twelve-and-a-half minute long ‘Bttls’, which is quite a slow-moving freeform affair almost devoid of traditional melody. Crash bang wallop type stuff. There’s nothing necessarily new with that, but I was impressed by the whole execution of it. Nothing is needlessly overdone — a lesser band may have turned such a track into contrived randomness — and it certainly kept my full attention for the distance.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the second disc I listened to, ‘EP C’. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but by that point I had become perhaps too familiar with the Battles sound, and I felt like I’d heard it all before on ‘B EP’. That’s just the sort of thing that I’ll get over though, and no doubt it will grow on me.
Whatever, Battles definitely have something. I’ve heard that they’re amazing live, and I can’t wait to hear what they can come up with for their new album due later this year. Warp Records have also signed Tyondai Braxton (the “experimental” member of Battles, according to Wikipedia at least, who also collaborated on Prefuse 73’s coolest tunes on ‘Surrounded by Silence‘) as a solo artist. All-in-all, I’m very excited about this band.