Originally, “Tonto” rocks, hard, but about four minutes in, a pentatonic synth-line pops out with the glee of a child learning “Chopsticks” at the piano. Not much has changed to the track itself, but on this follow-up to Mirrored (one of the year’s best albums), Battles surrounds it with reinterpretations and live versions that only reinforce the group’s inventiveness and influence. Even though it’s only got six tracks, the EP runs as long as many full length albums. But the four versions of “Tonto” and the two of “Leyendecker” couldn’t be more unique, from Four Tet’s pulsing electro reinterpretation (trade bass guitar for bass synth buzz) to Battles’ own live rendition where every line is turned on its head. The remix of “Tonto” by the Field is maybe most inspired (though, you know, we might not be the best judge). What you begin to appreciate over the course of each track’s nine minutes is how fluid Battles’ music is, because the interplay between the electronic and live instrument components is so seamless. That’s why it’s so amenable to reinterpretation as minimal techno or hip-hop. And it’s a strong reminder of why we should still be listening.
// Notes from the Road
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