Upon hearing that Battles had found a home on Warp Records, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the band’s next release. Their usual loping, lo-fi songs felt somehow incomplete, like they were missing a layer that would jell all the band’s elements together. Mirrored pushes the band into a place that is at home with a skewed pop sensibility that is at home on the record label that released “Windowlicker”.
There is a sonic kinship to that old Aphex Twin gleefully gonzo single in the faster songs on Mirrored. Though the majority of the album doesn’t directly sound like Aphex Twin’s G-Funk techno comedown, it’s not impossible to draw a line between it and the falsetto cooing and gated drums of the track “Leyendecker”. While they are the last band that I’d expect to churn out a catchy single, but they have done so with “Atlas”. Amidst the marching churn of the drums and the fierce push of the dirty keyboards, they’ve layered in Tyondai Braxton’s vocal hook: a squealing, borderline incomprehensible mash fed through a bank of effects pedals. As strange as it is, it’s exactly what burrows itself into your brain and forces you to it listen repeatedly. Both “Atlas” and the later quirk of “Rainbow”, with its rapid fire drum line and left-field time signature shifts show off the bands key strength: ex-Helmet drummer John Stanier, a man who can put any drum machine to shame.
When the songs slow down, they require a sense of patience. A handful of the tracks, though still driving at times, build a sensation of an impending peak, but fail to provide any payoff by ending as subtly as they began. When put in context with the more pummeling songs on the album, they don’t feel as effective, despite still being interesting compositions. Songs that arrive frenetic and climb higher are among the most effective on Mirrored. This is best seen in “Ddiamondd”, which starts at its apex and does not let up. The songs bouncing vocals and whistling synths make it feel as if they’ve done their best to recreate the Frank Zappa song book in a meth lab.
Mirrored sits at the nexus of a handful of snooty genres. As a full album, it will most likely appeal to no particular genre purist. Anyone who decides to open up and embrace it’s math rock leanings, analog noodling and bright vocal melodies will find a solid album that could push a listener to unexplored avenues of listening.