02 October 2007

"Mayonnaise colored Benz..."

My Battles feature from the summer issue of The Deli Magazine has been posted online, so if you haven't picked up the issue or aren't in the city, you can check it out. Battles are one of the year's greatest independent success stories largely because, as I see it, they've broke through without even hinting toward the brand of indie-rock that seems almost tailor-made for use in commercials. They're being embraced by a scene where they don't quite fit and I like the idea. Here's what I wrote:
Battles
War of the Worlds


"And now, fought with the terrible weapons of super-science, menacing all mankind and every creature on the Earth comes the War of the Worlds."

Yet, imagine this force of futuristic sci-fi sonic manipulation as used for good instead of evil. Picture a stage in which it is futile to discern whether the men control the machines or the machines control the men. As if, tangled in the sinews of winding wire, the humans are helpless amidst the sound wave battlefield. The blasts and squeaks weave with elasticity leaving just enough breathing room for each sound to register and the result is an eruption of rumbling engine noises driven by shattering percussion and accented with pointed shredding of strings and keys.
Each section builds like a movement of intergalactic warfare culminating in warped screeches and chants -- fragments of what earthlings might call "vocals" -- so doctored, distorted and altered that they meld effortlessly with the electronic explosions. And yet, snap out of the peculiar, mechanistic trance to find there is a distinctively human quality to it all.

The experimental manipulations at the hands of four New York City musicians is oddly assuring. In a 21st century world of Orwellian proportions, amid gadgets and artificial intelligence, Man prevails if only in their complete mastery of machine. What sounds like the apparatus takeover is actually the human touch -- ambitious instrumentalists, free of samples, creating each and every sound live, in an effort to conquer your ears and mind.

Battles has truly triumphed, and I'll be damned if they don't win the war to boot. The weapons are stockpiled; ex-Helment drummer John Stanier punishes the set while ex-Don Cabellero guitarist Ian Williams and ex-Lynx guitarist Dave Konopka melt faces above Stanier's wild tribal pounding. And then, there's Tyondai Braxton in a mess of keyboards, looking like he hijacked an electrical truck, creating live vocal loops and Daft Punk-ing them into a buzzing heap of pitch-shifts and vocoder.

After two astonishingly good EPs, the band has unleashed their long-awaited full length, Mirrored, upon the globe and brought along their manic live show for good measure. Impossible to ignore, the band was even profiled by The New York Times, proof that Battles' progressive soundtrack to electronic friction is a war of worlds worth fighting for. Tyondai Braxton waged his own battle, against a bad cell phone connection in the flatlands of Texas, to share his band's story with The Deli. READ THE INTERVIEW

Battles Ddiamondd

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