Genre: Progressive Rock/Math Rock/Experimental
I first encountered Battles while watching Mind Field, the latest skateboarding video from Alien Workshop. I was mesmerized by the quiet intensity of their song, “Atlas,” and how it complimented the raw talent and artful expression of professional skateboarder, Arto Saari. It also left a lasting impression as he fell some 20 feet down a set of stairs landing, literally, onto his face. Nevertheless, I had to learn more about this unique group.
Battles has been experimenting with music since 2003 when four like-minded musicians decided to create something unique from their collective experiences as members of various bands. Their line-up accentuates their versatilities as musicians. Band leader, Tyondai Braxton, son of the avant-garde composer Anthony Braxton, plays guitars, keyboards, and creates live voice samples. Ian Williams, formerly of Don Caballero, plays guitars and keyboards. Dave Konopka, formerly of Lynx, plays guitars, bass, and provides additional live effects. Rounding out the four-piece line-up is John Stanier on the drums, which might seem like a minimal contribution to the band when compared to the other members until one learns that he used to provide the drums for the alternative-metal band, Helmet. Stanier’s association with the prog-metal band is said to have an integral influence on rock drummers since Helmet's first album.
Even though Battles has been making music for some time, they have only released a handful of EP’s along with one full-length album, Mirrored. They’ve spent the majority of their time together touring various countries including a highly-successful tour of Japan. In the few records that they have released their music definitely falls into the “experimental” category, however, they differentiate themselves from the more eccentric artists of their genre by diverting the attention away from the samples and unique vocalizations and maintaining the focus on the traditional rock instruments, the guitars and drums. Stanier’s ability to deliver a hard-driving drum beat almost eliminates the “experimental” label to bring them into a full fledged rock sound.
If you are a fan of experimental music and find yourself too young for Frank Zappa and too old for Animal Collective, Battles might be just what you’re looking for. Just remember to avoid lip-slide hang-ups like Arto’s to keep your meal-ticket in check.
EP C (2004) EP
B EP (2004) EP
EP C/B EP (2006)
Tonto+ (2007) EP