If anyone were to ask which band is still pushing the musical envelope in these beige and uncertain times for rock music, Battles would be right up there.
The New York trio, now reduced to the duo of mad scientist guitar noodler-cum-synthesizer auteur Ian Wiliams and expertly fearsome drummer John Stanier have never been ones to follow musical trends. Instead, they craft music that transcends trends, utilizing complicated algorithms only a super-computer can decipher. This post-human approach to instrumentation is what made their last two efforts Gloss Drop and La Di Da Di so tantalising for lovers of weird, progressive and incredibly vivid art rock.
Juice B Crypts is no different, bathing in the art/post-rock freedoms of its predecessors. Although the band’s reduction in size may have filtered out some of the ungodly walls of noise they used to unearth, Stanier and Williams still manage to fascinate and enthrall in ways that others just can’t. Opener "Ambulance" begins like a colourful children’s toy slowly being dismantled then reassembled into a more coherent, fluctuating looped riff, joined by Stanier's signature pounding, motorik rhythm section. Much like their previous records, the album gives a feel of a machine in crisis, a future computer program becoming aware of its ability to perceive and experience emotions and not quite knowing how to deal with it all.
This is – much like Gloss Drop - aided by the inclusion of various featured artists on all the central tracks. Standouts here include the hip hop-infused "Izm" (ft. Shabazz Palaces), the frantic synth-laden chaos of "They Played It Twice" (ft. Xenia Rubinos) and Tune-Yards' playful offerings on "Last Supper On Shasta" Pts 1&2. Juice B Crypts is an uncompromised, multi-faceted assault course for the brain, but one you won’t regret taking.