May 31, 2007


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Datarock, Datarock Datarock
Nettwerk Records, 2007
Battles, Mirrored
Warp Records, 2007

You can take the nu-rave movement seriously and plunge into the whole glow-stick thing, pretending to find salvation in your new Klaxons record, or you can avoid it completely and hold out for something better. Datarock, who traffic in ain’t-we-just -nuts euro-freakiness, appeal directly to the former, shooting par by looking for hooks in all the wrong places (not that they’re anywhere near as emperor’s-new-clothes as Klaxons, but you get the drift), which in their case means old Devo albums and disposable euro-dance dross. Datarock’s accents are beer-barrel European (ch sounds in place of j’s, f’s instead of v’s), meaning they get an all-access pass for “Ja! Goot funny!” crypto-joke-band chic. When the dust and Silly String clear, however, dancers will eventually demand something one step beyond, which is where Battles comes in. An indie supergroup comprised of members of Helmet, Don Caballero and Lynx, they secured the services of Boston-based avant-garde composer Tyondai Braxton for the sampled-vocal needs of this debut full-length. What comes of all this is a sort of heavy-handed IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) with no small similarity to The Orb. Braxton’s eccentric cast of circuit-fried voices (weird little Munchkin singalongs, bum-bum-bums right out of “Mister Sandman” and Native American chants) ride atop quizzical, occasionally hard jams, Primus-esque bass chords and Yes guitar flourishes. It’s ferociously addictive, not the pointless diversion for bored, stuffed-shirt prog musicians one would expect but instead a thoughtful gift to the dance space. If there really is anything to some tenuous new dance-and-be-really-weird craze, hopefully it’ll embrace innovations of Battles’ caliber. Dantarock: C+, Battles: AEric W. Saeger