Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Noughties By Nature #71: Battles - Atlas

If you check the internet, there's lots of interesting information to be found about this band. Who they are, how they do what they do, what they're all about. Beyond a certain level of polite interest, I don't really care about that stuff. It's not what makes this such an astonishing musical thing, and it might just spoil things. Loads of people make loops and layer them up. Loads of people play live drums alongside these loops, and then jam along. Plenty of bands channel the spirit of the Dr Who theme: Why, Muse were doing it only a month or so ago. And there is clearly no chance that we're ever going to run out of seven-minute long faux-instrumentals with an art-rock bent, not while there's a world-wide-web.

What makes Atlas so different that it is FUN. Everything about it is fun. I'm amazed it hasn't been used to soundtrack a cartoon. Bits of it sound like Pink Elephants On Parade, and believe you me, praise doesn't come much higher than that. It's got that brilliant eerie lurch to it, a kind of drunken half-articulated leg-scrape of a gait that'll drag you out of your seat and run skeleton fingers up and down your ribs to get you to dance.

And the melody! That ridiculous spiralling munchkin parade! Slightly eerie, yes, but only in the way that truly brilliant children's films are often eerie, the way that Heath Robinson drawings are sometimes a bit eerie. Y'know...FUN-eerie.

The band's album featured a mirrorbox full of instruments, left hanging in blackspace. The implication being that the music is generated by some kind of mechanical possession, that sprites and gremlins are generating magic from inside the machines, while the band sleep. All they have to do is turn up, tune up, and rock out.

And that's why I'd rather not know more. The prosaic truth - talented musicians come up with catchy tune - lets the song down, and that would never do.
Fraser McAlpine

[Album: Mirrored]

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