Battles – Tonto

20 Mar 2008, 6:54pm
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The first post in my two post series about light is musical in origin but is just as much about light as it is sound.

Last years debut album by Battles seemed to go unnoticed by most. In fact, I nearly missed it but I am certainly glad that I didn’t. It has been one of the albums that I have been listening to quite a bit lately and I return to it regularly however it is so unique that I couldn’t find a way to include a track from their album on my yearly mix CD. I just couldn’t make it work.

The band is made up of members of the (now defunct) bands Helmet and Don Cabellero, and you can hear the influences of those bands in the music of Battles. (Video bio here.) I can anyways. You could call it Math Rock or Future Funk or whatteverthefunk you want to call it but, in my opinion, it rises above those categories.

What pushed me over the edge on these guys was the video they created for ‘Tonto’, one of the tracks off their album. They teamed up with United Visual Artists (UVA) who are know for their interactive light installations that they create for museums and galleries. (I highly recommend that you click on that last link and peruse their entire site. There are some amazing videos of their installations as well as photos on how they are are created. They are doing some very cool things.)

UVA and Battles took their ideas to a Welsh slate mine. They created a sound triggered LED light display to match the music. In filming this, Battles played for eleven hours. If you were not aware, that is a very long time to be playing the same song. But the results are beautiful and the intermittent light flashes complement the music perfectly. Near the end they use gorgeous time lapse photography that ushers in the dawn as the song slows down to a crawl (from the 4:30 mark to the end, which is about three minutes). I find it very effective.

I hope you have good speakers and I hope you enjoy it. This music isn’t for everyone but the collaborative art is.

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