Interview: Battles in the club — remixes and the art of the B-side

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Battles: Dross GlopBattles: Dross Glop (Warp, 4/17/12)

“Rolls Bayce (Hudson Mohawke Remix)”

If the appeal of a cover tune rests on an artist’s ability to emulate a preexisting song and bring new flavors to it at the same time, then the remix is something of an estranged relative. With remixes, the implicit goal is to stretch an existing piece of music as far as it can possibly go. Remixers are thus encouraged to let their musical personality eclipse the composer’s. They are essentially hired to take risks, to reconstitute, and to deconstruct — even altogether ignore — the mood, structure, and musical components with which they’ve been given to work.

The end results often qualify as works of art unto themselves, yet they also exist more or less as novelty items. Arguably, few remixes connect with more than a limited niche audience — even for fans of groups like Massive Attack and Depeche Mode — and the thought of a group of remixes working together within the larger framework of a full-length album remains an anomaly.

But that isn’t stopping experimental rock trio Battles from trying.


Review: Battles’ Dross Glop

Battles: Dross Glop (Warp, 4/17/12)

“Rolls Bayce (Hudson Mohawke Remix)”

As a companion to last year’s Gloss Drop, the inversely titled Dross Glop consists entirely of BattlesGloss Drop music reworked by the likes of Hudson Mohawke, The Alchemist, Kode9, Shabazz Palaces, Gang Gang Dance, Gui Boratto, and more. Given the band’s unpredictable creative trajectory to this point, it’s no surprise that the distinctive electro-rock trio has released something to induce head-scratching among existing fans and electronica fans alike.

OFF Festival

Lineup for OFF Festival 2012 (Katowice, Poland)

Poland’s much-loved OFF Festival returns August 3-5, featuring ALARM favorites such as Battles, Converge, Baroness, Henry Rollins, Other Lives, Swans, Das Racist, Jacaszek, Africa HiTech, Akron/Family, and more.

Shabazz Palaces

Beats & Rhymes: Shabazz Palaces’ Black Up

Every other week, Beats & Rhymes highlights a new and notable hip-hop, rap, DJ, or electronic record that embraces independent sensibilities.

Shabazz Palaces: Black UpShabazz PalacesBlack Up (Sub Pop, 5/31/11)

Shabazz Palaces: “An Echo From The Hosts That Process Infinitum”

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Don’t bother looking up Shabazz Palaces on Google. Its official website is almost bereft of information, promotional photos are nonexistent, and interviews are scarce. In an Internet age when stars can be made through YouTube views, Shabazz Palaces seems to have gamed the system; its heavy blog buzz is, ironically, at least partially due to its spare Web presence.

Shabazz Palaces ringleader Palaceer Lazaro isn’t a new player on the hip-hop scene, however. He is better known as Ishmael Butler, who is, in turn, better known as Butterfly of Digable Planets. But don’t expect to hear smooth, jazz-infused rap, like Digable Planets’ “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like That),” from Lazaro’s new outfit, Shabazz Palaces. After two acclaimed EPs, the band is poised to release its first full-length, Black Up, a discordant rap album if ever there was one.

The opener, “Free Press and Curl,” assaults the listener with relentlessly repetitive bass blasts. Melodic flourishes arise occasionally, but mostly the production is nothing but bursts of low-end buzz. Make no mistake: Black Up is a record that rewards listeners who have invested in quality woofers.  Lazaro’s rapping is mixed low, making it difficult to decipher exactly what he’s saying, and his flow and the rhythm of the production don’t seem to sync up.  It all makes for a thoroughly dissonant experience, exactly the kind that Shabazz Palaces wants the listener to have.