Battles have been dodging the math rock bullet for some time now. They’ve signed to an electronic label (Warp), released an album that defies classification (Mirrored), and introduced it with a single that can only be described as an alien glam shanty (‘Atlas’). Now that we have finally caught up with the band, they lose us by standing stock still - and releasing the quintessential math rock track.
The elements of ‘Tonto’ are pure rock - bluesy riffs, harmonic solos, rolling rhythm section - but it would take a team of NASA scientists to explain how they fit together. My own GCSE-level conclusion is that it has something to do with the band’s chemistry: their loose improvisations are held together with tight-knit playing and possibly telepathy. The result is the kind of barmy, intricate epic Kyuss could’ve made if they hadn’t spent their high school years doing bongs.
The Field takes a suitably scientific approach to his remix, which puts ‘Tonto’ under the microscope. A split-second’s worth of samples is spliced, treated beyond recognition and fused into distorted, hypnotic techno that would “wrong up” the trippiest Holden set. Instead of going anywhere, the sound closes in around you until it becomes unbearably claustrophobic. When the last minute opens out into ringing, melodic, wide-open space, it begs the question: if The Field had more up his sleeve, why didn’t he use it?
Four Tet is much more faithful to the original, opting for a pimping up rather than a complete overhaul. He starts with an engine change, replacing the low end with humming synths and a driving kick, before rebuilding ‘Tonto’ so that it makes sense to the dancefloor (and human minds). The loony vocals that Battles throw out with their intro are held back until the halfway point, before the live drums drop ‘Electronic Battle Weapon 8’ style, and the track meanders back towards the band’s version.
The other material on this CD/DVD set is the very definition of filler: a ‘Leyendecker’ remix that does little more than slap rent-a-thug rapping onto the original, live tracks that fail to capture an experience that has to be seen to be believed, and promo videos that are easily Googled. Fans are advised to download the Four Tet remix, and the Battles curious should save their cash for a copy of Mirrored: you won’t be disappointed.
Buy Battles - Tonto + at
Tracklist: Battles - Tonto +CD-1 Tonto (Album Version)
CD-2 Tonto (The Field Remix)
CD-3 Tonto (Four Tet Remix)
CD-4 Tonto (Live At FRF 07)
CD-5 Leyendecker (Live At FRF 07)
CD-6 Leyendecker (DJ Emz Remix)
DVD-1 Tonto (Video)
DVD-2 The Making Of Tonto
DVD-3 Atlas (Video)