Indulge me for a moment: One of life’s great and enduring pleasures — all forms of love and beer aside — is a good walk and a pair of headphones planted firmly in your inner ear. A great album can transform the faces and facades of a ten-block trek into unwitting actors in the music’s subtle drama. It’s also damn good for strutting — as in the instant a riff breaks or that meaty beat coalesces in the absolute epicenter of your brain.
That’s exactly what happens two and a half minutes into the opening track on B EP. In a stark reminder of his lauded days with Don Cabellero, Ian Williams begins “SZ2” murkily with his petulant arrhythmic guitar work. But once that riff settles, his mates come crashing in with a truly strut-inducing dose of fuzzy head-nod as they begin a thrilling half-hour display of art-house conceit and unflinching musicianship.
In a move as inexplicable as their song titles, Battles released EP C and Tras Fantasy separately in June 2004 as part of a projected three-EP debut. B EP marks the finale, but don’t expect fireworks. This quartet isn’t about teary-eyes or sweaty palms — Battles’ ruthlessly interlocking guitars and stone-cold rhythms hit more like the crack of a whip than the embrace of a lover. But as in the opening moments of the epic “SZ2” and later in “IPT2” and “DANCE,” listening to Williams and guitarist Tyondai Braxton gear-shift around all those pinballing duple and triple rhythms has a distinct pleasure all its own.
Though the tiresome looped soundscapes of the twelve-minute “BTTLS” make it a real stumbling block, B EP, along with the first two EPs, manages to leave an indelible mark on the post-rock landscape. Don Cab fans will surely cozy up to Williams’s and Braxton’s memory-man guitars, while everyone else will marvel at the fact that rock virtuosity doesn’t have to mean whammy bars and garter belts.