Battles – Tonto+

1 out of 5

Label: Warp

Produced by: Various

I’m curious what the first remix album of this type was. I feel like it’s a “thing” now, or was for a few years – for indie or rock bands, and specifically those making the kind of stuff you wouldn’t necessarily think of as club anthems, to drop albums where their songs are given dance beats – and I’m frankly not sure I’ve ever quite understood the point, or understood the need. If an artist was inspired to remix a particular track, sure, and there have been some instances of this that feel like fully considered projects, and in both those cases, I still can’t say the results are generally for me, but I respect the concept more. 

But in many instances – say, Battles’ Tonto remix EP – I just feel like I’m hearing indie kids try to cover for the fact that maybe they like some dance music (because that’s not as “cool?”) by farming out some songs to clouty electronic / hip-hop artists, and then we ALL just nod and agree it’s fun, so that we all have the same excuse for our Junior Vazquez albums or something. 

Yes, this is incredibly dismissive, and to be fair, Battles is surely closer to something that makes sense for a remix, given its beat-based – albeit via drums – approach and, sure, generally dancey vibe. But still, this doesn’t make sense to me. You get the album version of Tonto, and then two remixes which do not step very far from the path of the original – muting or playing up elements, but otherwise sticking to the plan. Then a live version of Leyendecker, which is good to hear how such a complex band like Battles pulls off their shtick live, but firstly this isn’t a great recording (elements fade in and out of fidelity, and you can only really hear the “details” because you know they’re supposed to be there), and secondly its swerves away from the album version don’t benefit the song, sounding rather like “this is all we can do live” as opposed to worthwhile flourishes. Lastly, a Leyendecker remix with rapping from Joell Ortiz, which, skills of the emcee aside, just… doesn’t work as a style mash-up. 

Essentially: I can’t think of any reason to listen to this single. To my ears, the remixes aren’t especially rewarding or effective, and the live song lags behind the studio version in several ways. The DVD has music videos; nothing hard to find online nowadays (or even when this was released!).