Battles returned October 18, 2019, with their fourth album Juice B Crypts via Warp Records. Following in the wake of its complex, mind-bending predecessors Mirrored, Gloss Drop, and La Di Da Di, the new full length is a sensory overload of information that throws everything you thought you knew about the storied art-rock supergroup into flux once again. The band’s redefined line-up of Ian Williams (keys, guitar, electronics) and John Stanier (drums) is at the core of the covertly named Juice B Crypts, which was produced and mixed by Chris Tabron (Trash Talk, Beyonce, Mobb Deep, Ratking). Marrying synthesizer loops, cut-throat drum patterns, and cyclical riffs, the album flirts with new technology, questions of authenticity, and the technicalities of reinventing the wheel at the eleventh hour.
While they’ve always hailed from New York, Juice B Crypts is the first Battles album both written and recorded there. Influenced by the city’s rhythms, it joins the dots of their lived and unlived experiences. This is brought to life by local artist and friend Andrew Kuo’s artwork for the album, whose colourful abstract bars and triangle pixels test the limits of 2-D flatness with 3-D manipulations, creating an optical pattern that resembles the way Battles notate; coding phrases and patterns with memorable names. The announcement of Juice B Crypts is timed with the release of first single “Titanium 2 Step” featuring No Wave legend Sal Principato from the iconic ‘80s New York band Liquid Liquid. This first offering is an homage to the city, resembling a lost New York classic. "We loved making this record in our hometown of New York and cannot be more pleased that Sal from Liquid Liquid is on the track,” explains John, “it could not have been more perfect".
Juice B Crypts is Battles untethered, Ian expands: “It’s about chord progressions, resolutions, returning home. Take that and throw it into a blender of modern electronic tools like glitching devices, or use melodic lines and take them and regurgitate them and pulverize the traditional stuff but at the same time try and retain harmonic relationships while completely smashing them up”. The album dives straight into Battles’ core sound with meticulously tight guitar loops and maverick levels of instrumental deconstruction and arrangement. “A Loop So Nice…” offers a peculiarly attractive hand up in to “They Played It Twice” featuring New York vocalist Xenia Rubinos, whose vocals resonate on a granular level, liberating the track. Full of surprises, Battles invite Taipei-based psychedelic band Prairie WWWW and Yes vocalist Jon Anderson to push vocals through the wire-shaped gaps on “Sugar Foot”. As well as hosting a party of vocalists, including Shabazz Palaces and tUnE-yArDs, the album boasts instrumental highpoints, like “Fort Greene Park” and the title track, which emits alternating beams of pitched energy that obfuscate and scramble thoughts. At the album’s close, a piano plays the synth notes heard at the beginning of the album, demonstrating the limitless potential of the meta patterns that run deep throughout the record, looped like a tautological code twisting in time.