As fans of groups like Tortoise, Explosions In The Sky and Pelican can attest, the best acts in modern rock over the last 10 years or so are the ones who know enough to shut the heck up and just play

As fans of groups like Tortoise, Explosions In The Sky and Pelican can attest, the best acts in modern rock over the last 10 years or so are the ones who know enough to shut the heck up and just play without some weak vocalization and nonsense lyrics gumming up the jam. So when one of these titans of 21st century instrumentalism decides to venture into the art of singing, as Battles have done on their anticipated full-length feature "Mirrored", skepticism abounds.

Fortunately for this multi-hued supergroup, Tyondai Braxton, much like his father, '70s avant-jazz giant Anthony Braxton, is one far-out brother, who'd rather flex his vocal chords to add another dimension to the experimental nature of his band than as a platform for expressing his emotions (you might have to wait until his own solo album due out later this year on Warp for that).

While more than half of "Mirrored" includes voice, Braxton stretches and processes his timbre to the point where it doesn't even sound like a real human behind the microphone. And when it does, it sounds like someone covering an extraterrestrial party anthem ("Atlas") or a Hot 97 jam on copious amounts of peyote and microchips ("Leyendecker"). But fear not, faithful Battle fans, the second half of this album finds Messrs. Williams, Stanier, Braxton and Konopka reverting back to the vox-free science that you knew and loved on their previous three EPs, particularly on such envelope-pushing numbers as "PRISMISM" and the relentless "Snare Hanger," which showcases why Stanier remains one of the best drummers in the business. -- Ron Hart