EP C CDEP - Monitor

The last I saw of Ian Williams, he was on the Knitting Factory stage in New York canoodling and sticking his tongue down the throat of some random babe plucked from the audience as he indulged in overtly pretentious guitar-looped finagling in a solo set during Don Caballero's "final" tour in support of 2000's toned-down, jazz-inflected American Don. Williams defied the notion that brainy math-rockers are not just into systematic prog-metal tumult, but sloppy makeout sessions to boot - and this chick obviously was turned on to the sexy mathematica antics. The Williams-era Don Cab reign came to an end shortly thereafter (since resurrected by the perennially pissed-off miscreant, traps-man Damon Che) and rumors quickly spread through the underground that Williams and a few of his indie-famous cohorts had merged under that tired guise of "supergroup" to revive the sleeping instrumental post-rock aesthetic, a genre that became passe when disco-punk seized on its 15 minutes. Battles links up Williams with heavy hitters on both the playing and label fields - avant-jazz experimentalist Tyondai Braxton, drummer John Stanier (ex-Helmet and Tomohawk) and David Konopka (Lynx) with Baltimore's can-do-no-wrong Monitor Records, respectively. So, with a host of debauched heavy-as-shit resumes, the Battles oeuvre is no doubt a can't-miss? Not exactly. EP C, the first installment of a three EP jaunt through indie-dom hot spots (Dim Mak and Cold Sweat also are on the Battles label tour) finds Williams and company inheriting Don Cab's precision incision and self-important song title abstractions (see "B + T," "TRAS2," "Ipt-2") but showing an ill-advised proclivity towards mid-nineties formulaic post-rock blipping trances, while For Respect-style balls-to-the wall metallic dirges are clearly MIA. The repetition of opener "B + T" is confounding - one would think the fusion of Williams' patented cerebral, jazz-pierced lineage with that of Braxton's coiled clangs would be an all-instrumental orgasm, but coupled with Stanier's rudimentary backbeat, the song translates as too calculated (read: boring). It also happens to be the best moment of EP Cís 24-minute duration. The synth-swooshes and percussive filler of "Uw" and "Ipt-2" finds Battles in languid remix-like mode, the Ui-ish "Hi/Lo" picks up where "B + T" left off - the pedestrian beats return, augmented by bleeping electronica Atari-isms that ultimately goes nowhere even when the guitars kick in, albeit in lethargic style. The closer "TRAS2" is yet another exercise in idea-lacking, monotonous soundwaves. Anyone keenly familiar with Don Caballero's heavier-than-thou, convoluted exploits have always been aware that Don Cab was Che's vision, and Williams' role, however important, was secondary. Battles' EP C is testament to this very fact. Somewhere, Damon Che and his replacement players in his reincarnation of Don Cab are laughing, asking the same perplexing question I am: This is the best this "supergroup" can do? (Brad Cohan)



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