Complicated music and fun music don’t often go in hand. While wide-eyed joy often comes out of simplicity, music that’s more intricate often gets bogged down in its own weirdness, unable to provide any transcendence beyond anticipating the next time signature change that’s seconds away. Battles debunk this fabulously within the first minute of their new album ‘Juice B Crypts’.
Opening track ‘Ambulance’ begins with what sounds like a Nintendo 64 having a malfunction, before it throws itself head-first into a propulsive, invigorating stride courtesy of a chest-thumping bassline.
Across the record, the now-duo delve into all kinds of conceptual weirdness, overflowing with ideas of technology, subservience and infinite loops. The brilliance of the record, though, is that none of this fancy thinking gets in the way of what is an absurdly fun album.
Special guests play a bigger role on ‘Juice B Crypts’ than on any other Battles record. Genre-bending singer-songwriter Xenia Rubinos brings ethereal vocals to the fidgety ‘They Played It Twice’, while Tune-Yards features on the two-part closer ‘Last Supper On Shasta’, again mainly in a textural fashion.
Though the guests form a great deal of the fabric of the album, they do so on Battles’ terms, firmly entering their universe. No guest – not even Shabazz Palaces’ flowing verses on ‘Izm’ – steals the show.
The album’s highlight is single ‘Titanium 2 Step’, the distillation of the album’s marrying of the weird and the grin-enducing. The simplicity and joy of the track comes from its pared-down repeated guitar line, while all manner of electronic wizardry, shrieked backing vocals and other-worldly noise creates its universe behind it.
The riff still stays as a constant, though, pulling the pair back from pure vanity into a song – and an album – that indulges the weird and wonderful side of Battles while also, simply, giving the people what they want.