The name Ian Williams is well-known among old-school Pittsburgh indie fans. After moving here in the 1990s to attend Pitt, the guitarist ended up playing in a little band called Don Caballero. But that was nearly a decade ago.
Now Williams is in a tour van somewhere between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., with his bandmates in Battles, and talking about the group's upcoming debut full-length, Mirrored. Williams describes the new material as "melodically less restrained, a more lush production" than Battles' earlier EPs. "We were a lot more sure of ourselves; we understand the techniques we use better."
The New York City-based supergroup also includes Dave Konopka (Lynx) on guitar and bass, powerhouse drummer John Stanier (Helmet, Tomahawk), and solo artist Tyondai Braxton on effect-heavy vocals, keyboard, guitar and electronics. After a couple of years together and several EPs released on smaller indie labels, the ultra-hip Warp Records came calling, and kicked the band into its current full-time status.
The U.K. label, which boasts artists like Autechre, Nightmares on Wax, and Aphex Twin, as well as Prefuse 73, repackaged Battles' EPs into a single disc, and will put out Mirrored in early May. Battles has already released one song, "Atlas," as a single that includes a "reinterpretation" by Kompakt's DJ Koze.
There's also a music video, circulating online, in which the band performs inside a virtual transparent cube. As Braxton grips the mic and rocks back and forth on effects pedals, singing the track's descending vocal hook, his voice warps between octaves, from munchkin highs to satanic lows, obliterating the meaning of whatever the words may have been in the first place. Indeed, the main point of "Atlas" -- and of much of Battles' output -- is its fractured, arty groove, driven by Stanier's polyrhythmic attack. In "Atlas," that groove takes the form of a glammy '70s shuffle "similar to Gary Glitter or Slade," Williams notes -- although it was inspired indirectly, through Kompakt techno records that appropriated the original rock beat.
But regardless of whether you pick up the single or wait it out for the full-length, you'd better arrive early if you plan to get sweaty with the band at its March 31 date at Gooski's. It's gonna be one of those shows.
Battles with Knot Feeder and The Poison Arrows. 9 p.m. Sat., March 31. Gooski's, 3117 Brereton St., Polish Hill. $8. 412-681-1658