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Let’s be fair, absolutely so: this is not performance, this is not live; this is a recording, shorn of the alarming visuals that so dominate a *Battles *show. These are the bare bones, the equations and arithmetic, of what goes into a startling, pulse-arresting gig experience. These are songs that are gifted great life when delivered without the opportunity of retakes, without the comfort of starting over; thus, to someone – anyone – that has seen the splendour of these four men in complex rhythmic harmony, these songs seem cold, lifeless, too clever for their own damn good.
Of course, the moments of magic sparkle just as brightly as they do when they’re conjured so wonderfully before disbelieving eyes: ‘Tras’ may be one of the band’s earliest compositions, released before either EP B or EP C, the two five-trackers that comprise all but two songs of this compiled re-release, but it’s still fantastic. With a bassline that hip-hop producers would duel at dawn for, the song’s evolution-by-way-of-repetition progression winds the listener up into a ball of energy so very tight that it’s a wonder one’s lungs can still operate; the one downer of the piece is that it ends without the climax necessary to release such pent-up dancefloor potential. ‘B+T’, opener of EP C, is also magnificent: it chimes and charms, twists and turns, sounding in every way like the score to the 1980s Care Bears movie if it were re-imagined for our times of worry and woe by Darren Aronofsky. Its rainbows are bleedings their colours, everything blending into a Plasticine-hued mess, arching over a skyline of silver towers topped by cigar-chuffing fat cats. The tracks from EP C – it’s tough to refer to these pieces as songs in any strict sense, seeing as they rarely adhere to any conventional structural blueprints – generally better those from the standalone release’s predecessor; indeed, a couple of EP B efforts are, frankly, twaddle. ‘Bttls’ might think very highly of itself – all 12-and-some minutes of itself – but to anyone without the patience of a saint it’s roughly ten minutes too long.
Of course, most people buying this discography to date will be doing so either because of the live shows, or because they already know it to be to their eclectic tastes. They won’t be disappointed in the slightest – Battles push toward and beyond boundaries as easily as you or I tie our laces in the morning – but any passing trade should tread carefully through these twelve tracks (across two discs). One man’s passion is another man’s poisson, after all, and while Battles’ on-stage output is rarely worth any less than a maximum star-or-whatever rating, this release isn’t quite.
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