Musicians From Mars

Have you ever checked out a new album so whacked-out and abstract that you claim that the CD is in and of itself a flying saucer sent to you by space worms and/or God? Here’s a look at a handful of bands with ideas and musicianship so out-of-this-world that they just can’t be human:

Battles’ Mirrored
The breakout debut album from this New York quartet relies heavily on industrial sound collages, mind-boggling polyrhythm, and a perfected blend of humanity and artificiality that makes Radiohead’s Kid A seem … natural. They have managed to capture sounds so strange and elusive to the ear of man that many instruments were lost during the recordings due to spontaneous combustion. Despite the distractions of lush sounds and unfamiliarity, Battles demonstrates impeccable musicianship throughout the album.

Hella’s There’s No 666 In Outer Space
This jazz influenced, metal prog-rock group demands your undivided attention in their attempt to blend eclectic improvisation with carefully composed chaos. While the form and structure of just about every song proves undecipherable to any sane listener, the band makes up for it with rhythmic acuity and seismic intricacy.

Sigur Ros’ Hvarf/Heim
Still abiding by their own made-up language commonly known as Hopelandic, Sigur Ros’ new release comes with no surprises. With his pompously orchestrated, jibberish songs, singer Jonsi’s makes up for his meaningless lyrics with the universally understood sound of beauty and elegance. The band’s use of alienation as a musical device, however, tempts me to wonder how less cool they would be if they sung in English.

The Bad Plus’ Prog
This prog-influenced trio continues to tear apart all preconceived notions of the jazz genre through its covers of overplayed pop songs. As they turn Tears for Fears and David Bowie hits upside down, Prog achieves at making virtuosity accessible.

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