Battles – Atlas
Math-rock was a sort of weird phenomenon that threatened to take off a few years ago. It emerged from the late 90’s and stewed for a bit in the King-Crimson-addled minds of a select few before bands such as Foals grabbed it and made a break for the mainstream. Stylistically it involves weird time signatures, lots of layers and loop pedals, with songs that are almost scientifically built (hence the name, “math rock”).
New York band Battles are probably the stereotypical math-rock band and 2007’s Atlas is their seminal track. For anyone with an interest in the genre, it’s an obvious starting point.
Coming in at just over 7 minutes in length, the track is driven from start to finish by an awesome tribal drumbeat. This then evolves, via a series of electronic noises, into what I can only describe as a mashup between Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll, part 2” and… erm… The Hamster Song. But somehow it is excellent.
The second half of the song builds up from almost a standstill and crescendos into an orgasm of nerdy laptop-looped music heaven. Below is both the shortened ‘single’ version of the song and a full live version from Later with Jools Holland, which is worth watching from about 3:15, if only to appreciate how wonderfully anal they are in creating the sound. Their drummer is even wearing a tank top. God bless the geeks.
By Harry Harland