In 2004, experimental rock band Battles released the material they had recorded to date on three EPs on three different labels nearly simultaneously. The first of those was Tras, which could better be described as a single with "Tras" as the A-side and "Fantasy" as the B-side. It was released on Los Angeles indie label Cold Sweat, followed by the five-song B EP, released on L.A.'s Dim Mak, and EP C, also five songs, on Monitor out of Maryland. An unusual strategy to be sure, but apparently effective since venerable electronica uber-label Warp Records subsequently released the combined material from B and C in 2006 and signed the band for future releases. The omission of the two songs found here may result in their becoming somewhat of a collector's item, which is unfortunate because Tras perfectly captures the Battles ethos, if not its formula, as this enigmatic ensemble of indie rock veterans refuses to pigeonhole its sound. Comprised of former Don Caballero guitarist Ian Williams, former Helmet/current Tomahawk drummer John Stanier, former Lynx guitarist Dave Konopka, and multi-instrumentalist/vocal sampler Tyondai Braxton, son of avant-garde jazz musician Anthony Braxton, this supergroup fairly defines experimental/instrumental rock and its limitless possibilities; songs vary greatly in approach and appear in multiple "versions" which may or may not resemble each other, constantly shapeshifting according to whims that exist far outside the rock rulebook. Casting limitations aside, however, does not result in formlessness; rather, songs like "Tras" have a palpable swing that usually doesn't exist in the avant-garde world. Beginning with a circular guitar riff and its harmonic echo, Tras careens through rhythms, bouncing back and forth between live drum kit and sampler crunch and synth squiggle, punctuated by handclaps and percussive bursts throughout its three-and-a-half-minute length. At over nine minutes, "Fantasy" is a study in polar opposites, its minimalist percussion workout being the antithesis to the technicolor chug of "Tras." Consisting of nothing but sampled beats and vocal hisses marked by the occasional staccato keyboard stabs, it results in a more greyed-out composition that wears on the listener before it even reaches its halfway point. Definitely worthwhile for the completist, but newcomers should start with the EP C/B compilation.
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