Battles

Despite the success of British poppy postpunkers Maxïmo Park, Warp Records is not yet ready to abandon its avant-garde roots. Battles, the label's latest signing, melds the synthetic and organic, but rarely permits the two to coexist peacefully. Voices are digitally strangled, guitars violently processed, drums muffled and then squelched. That said, Mirrored, the group's debut album, is unmistakably the work of a band, albeit one unafraid of abstraction. On "Tij," Tyondai Braxton's disembodied shrieks clash with jungle rhythms. On "Ddiamondd," John Stanier's tribal drumming is diced so finely that it eventually morphs into one continuous whir. Throughout the album, the band -- rounded out by Ian Williams (formerly of Don Caballero) and Dave Konopka (formerly of Lynx) -- remains at war with its technological impulses. Even the songs themselves, a hallmark of traditional, band-generated rock and roll, are eroded by their own futuristic sheen. The resulting musical friction will strike some listeners as genuinely exciting, others as frustratingly obtuse. Polarization seems not only inevitable but also precisely the point. Paying concertgoers expecting a few artistic concessions in a live setting might be in for a shock. After all, progress like this is not without its cost. -- Jonathan Garrett

 
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