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Battle Battle Disc

It took Buffalo’s Jason Pfaff three years to complete the composition and mixing of his newest release Battle Battle, a six song disc that will be available to the public today during Pfaff’s Battle Battle event in the Villa Maria Auditorium. The event, with proceeds going to support the Kristen Pfaff Memorial Scholarship at Villa Maria, has no lack of talent or entertainment, but the highlight of the evening will be Pfaff and his “orchestra’s” live interpretation of the mostly electronic selections from the disc; not an easy task when it comes to such nuanced material.
The disc’s short track listing is deceptive, while there are only six songs, there is a large variety of style in themusic, and the entire album has life of it’s own when listened to in full. There are a few difficult tasks to overcome when it comes to electronic composition–the first is giving songs an emotional weight, otherwise you end up sounding like C+C Music Factory, which this disc is far from. Part of the reason could be that the album was remastered with the help of Anthony Casuccio, who has worked with artists as varied as Eliades Ochoa, Cypress Hill, and the London Symphony Orchestra, but it’s Pfaff’s deft control of the piano, especially in the opening and closing tracks, that showcases a compositional creativity, allowing even the dancier tracks on the album to have depth and emotion.
Pfaff has described the project as “my most accessible to a wide audience”, and the obvious “radio cut” is the second track, Brighter Day, with a strong backbeat and excellently somber vocals by Ronnie Brown, it’s the sort of song that would have rounded out a good mix tape, back when those existed.
The second difficult task in electronic composition is the balance between electronic and organic elements. A lot of artists concentrate on making organic sounds inorganic, but the best electronic artists know how to blend the two. The track’s Love II & Love, best exemplify this, with tribal beats building out of soundscapes and synths, comparable to Four Tet or even Radiohead’s later work. These songs slide between chaotic and tranquil, and the balance of the two songs adds to the cinematic theme of the album.
My favorite track is track number three, The Storm, because it achieves something that is hard if not impossible to do in electronic music, it encompasses many different styles of dance music in one track. From the Rob & Goldie sounding synths at the beginning to Amon Tobin-esqe breaks to Chicago-style house, this track reminds me of KraftWerk’s Trans Europe Express. In that song, KraftWerk were trying to emulate, electronically, a train trip across Europe. Pfaffs song has a similar traveling quality, but more in the styles of electronica. In the song you hear sections that are reminiscent of early New York breaks, Early Detroit Techno, and Chicago House. For electronic connoisseurs, these variations during the song challenge the conventional standard of electronic music and reveal what a creative and imaginative artist Jason is.
Overall, the album offers the listeners a sanctuary to be creative themselves; the cinematicism of the songs beg for visual accompaniment. One can almost see the end credits rolling as the drums swell in the album’s final track Opus Aloria. One of the best things an electronic album can do is put the listener in a space that’s almost meditative, allowing them to hear a story in the instruments, much like how each observer of a painting will impart their own meaning to the finished canvas. This album has that quality. If you’re a fan of Ninja Tune, Mo Wax, Domino, Compost Records, or a fan of quality, interesting music, Jason Pfaff’s Battle Battle album should be in your collection.
Don’t miss your chance to get a copy of the album and see a live interpretation of the material with live visual accompaniment this Friday, Feb. 15, at Villa Maria’s Auditorium at 7PM. The event will feature performances from Jason and Gary Rutkowski, as well as performance art from Chik Mason and Aaron Piepsny, ballet and martial arts inspired dance. For more information, or to preorder tickets, go to www.nowonproductions.com. To find out more about the Kristen Pfaff Memorial Scholarship or what Battle Battle means, see the article A Promise to Kristen in this months Buffalo Rising Magazine.

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